Bengaluru, April 12: It was in the World Cup of 1987. India were defending their 1983 title at home and were looked upon as favourites to win the trophy again in home conditions. However, Kapil's Devils lost their first game in this edition to Australia, the eventual champions, by 1 run in Chennai (then Madras) and from there, it was a race between the two sides to claim the top spot in the group.
Allan Border's Australia finished their group stage assignments with five wins from six outings and looked favourites to end up as the table toppers. India still had one game to go against New Zealand and with four wins and one loss, the hosts needed a big win to better Australia in the net run-rate and clinch the group winners' slot.
India were desperate to make it happen for finishing second in the group, it would mean they would have to face arch-rivals Pakistan in Lahore in the semi-final and understandably, Indians wanted to avoid it and eyed a semi-final at home.
It was October 31 and the final group-stage game of the tournament. New Zealand were already out of the contention and playing for pride. Their captain Jeff Crowe won the toss in the Group A game and elected to bat. The Kiwis had a good start but their middle-order could not keep up the momentum and from 84 for one, they slipped to 182 for 5.
None of the Indian bowlers had dominated till that point of time and even part-timer Mohammad Azharuddin had picked one wicket (the prized one of Martin Crowe). It was then when Chetan Sharma, the third seamer in the side, was brought into the attack by Kapil who himself went rewardless on the day.
Chetan Sharma broke New Zealand's back in one memorable over
It was the diminutive Sharma's sixth over of the day and all the excitement was in store after half of the over was gone. Ken Rutherford (26), one of the top-order batsman was still at the crease and was the Black Caps' hope of making a big total. But Sharma had other things in his mind.
The skiddy pacer came rushing in and in the final three deliveries of his over, he rattled the timber of Rutherford, wicket-keeper-batsman Ian Smith (0) and pacer Ewen Chatfield (0), leaving New Zealand gasping at 182 for 8. A little steely show from the remaining tail-enders saw The Kiwis reaching 221 for 9 in their allotted 50 overs.
Sharma's hat-trick was the first by an Indian and in the World Cup and only the third in the history of the game after Pakistan's Jalal-ul-din (vs Australia in 1982) and Australia's Bruce Reid (vs New Zealand in 1986).
It was also sort of atonement for Sharma who was turned into a villain by a last-ball six by Javed Miandad just the year before. The match saw another piece of history created after the break as Sunil Gavaskar, who had scripted a 36 not out off 174 balls three World Cups back, going on an attack unnatural by his standards.
He slammed 103 not out in just 88 balls with three sixes and 10 fours and India romped home with 9 wickets in hand and 107 balls to spare. It was Gavaskar's only century in the ODIs. India topped the group with this win with a better net run rate and set up a date with England in the semi-final in Mumbai (then Bombay).