On 23rd July, 2000, Sajjida Shah of Pakistan Women became the youngest cricketer to feature in an international match. At the bewildering age of 12 years and 171 days, the off-spinning all-rounder took the field against Ireland Women at Dublin to break the record held by Gargi Banerji, who was 14 years and 165 days when she debuted for India in 1977-78.
Three years down the line, Shah enjoyed the most productive day of her career. Six second-tier nations – Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and Japan – were taking part in the International Women’s Cricket Council Trophy in Netherlands. Pakistan’s first match was on 21st July, 2003 at Amsterdam against newbies Japan, who were playing their first ever international.
Pakistan finished at 181/6 in their 50 overs after captain Shaiza Khan elected to bat. The highest score was only 31, by opener Kiran Baluch, but there were as many as 54 extras – including a whopping 43 wides – given away by the debutantes. Khan scored an unbeaten 30 while Nazia Nazir chipped in with 24. Captain Kaori Kato, a medium pacer, was the pick of the bowlers with 2/25 in ten overs.
Japan began their chase soundly, with openers Yuko Sasaki and Ema Kuribayashi putting on 21 for the first wicket, albeit with plenty of help from extras. What followed was arguably the most sensational collapse seen in any ODI match.
Shah, now aged 15 years and 169 days, castled Sasaki and then trapped Kuribayashi leg before within the space of two runs. Both the openers made three runs each – which turned out to be the joint-highest individual scores of the innings.
Shah’s off-breaks in tandem with Khursheed Jabeen’s slow left-arm were virtually unplayable for the Japanese novices, who were found to be woefully out of depth. Run-scoring became impossible in the literal sense as none of the remaining batswomen crossed even one run. With the score at 23/2, Jabeen removed Shizuka Kubota for one before Shah came back to further embarrass the debutantes.
Sajjida Shah, the youngest person to play international cricket, destroyed Japan with a record spell as a 15-year-old in 2003 (source – rizwan tabassum/afp/gettyimages.co.uk)
The teenager spun a web around the middle order, beginning with the wicket of Maki Kenjo, who was bowled for a duck – the first of six in the innings. Izumi Iimura too was bowled for no score.
Aya Fujishiro soon followed as she popped a catch to captain Khan, giving Shah her first and only five-wicket haul in internationals. Japan had lost four wickets for no run and crashed to 23/6.
Then with the score at 27, Jabeen claimed the wickets of Keiko Uchibori and Michiko Kono. She ended with a remarkable analysis of 10-8-2-3. Shah wrapped things up by crashing through the defences of Momoko Saito – who scored a rare single – and Ritsuko Hiroto in quick succession.
Thus ended Japan’s agony – the innings had lasted for 34 overs, but yielded just 28 runs. Needless to say, 20 out of those 28 were extras. Japan had lost all their wickets for just seven runs.
Shah finished with world record figures of 8-5-4-7, overhauling the twelve-year-old feat of Englishwoman Jo Chamberlain who took 7/8 against Denmark in a Women’s European Championship match at Haarlem in 1991.
There have since been two other seven-wicket hauls in women’s ODIs, but Shah’s scarcely believable return will take some beating. In all international cricket (men and women), her figures are the second-best in an ODI after Chaminda Vaas’ 8/19 against Zimbabwe in 2001-02.
No other Pakistani woman has claimed six wickets in an ODI. In fact, no Pakistani woman had claimed even five until Shah’s bamboozling spell. Pakistan’s win by 153 runs was their biggest at that point, before being surpassed by a 193-run win over Netherlands at Fatullah in 2011-12.
Interestingly, Japan’s total of 28 is not the lowest in women’s ODIs. That ignominy goes to Netherlands, who were shot out for 22 against the West Indies at Deventer in 2008. Until then, the lowest was Pakistan’s own 23 against Australia at Melbourne in 1996-97. Japan did not even cross 100 in any of their remaining four matches of the tournament, and have never played an ODI since.
Shah has so far played in two Tests, 60 ODIs and eight T20Is. In her second Test against the West Indies at Karachi in 2003-04, she scored 98 and shared a record opening stand of 241 with Baluch, who scored a world record 242.
She was part of the Pakistan team which played the Women’s World Cup in Australia in 2009. Her most recent international appearance came against India at Basseterre in the 2010 World Twenty20.
Match Scorecard – http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/67342.html