KARACHI -  Rising all-rounder Faheem Ashraf says him becoming the first Pakistani to claim a hat-trick in T20Is hasn’t sunk in yet and that he is still in a state of disbelief over his incredible feat.

Ashraf, 23, dismissed three consecutive batsmen in the second T20I against Sri Lanka late last month — only the sixth time a bowler has claimed a hat-trick in the game’s shortest format at the international level and the first time a Pakistani did so.

In an interview with Pak Passion, Ashraf discussed at length his terrific trifecta and revealed he wasn’t even supposed to bowl that late in the game per the original plan.

“I wasn’t sure if I would be bowling in the latter stages of the innings but then I realised that Usman Shinwari was injured and that I would be required to bowl one more over towards the end of the innings,” he said.

He then explained his thought process for all three wickets and credited Shoaib Malik and Imad Wasim for helping him strategise. -

“Initially I just wanted to keep it tight but Shoaib Malik told me to keep bowling the right length and not bowl short,” recalled Ashraf. “For the first wicket I bowled a slower ball and Hasan Ali took a superb catch. For the second wicket I bowled a good length delivery. For the hat-trick delivery, Imad Wasim told me to bowl a good length inswinger and the batsman will be leg before or bowled and that’s [exactly] what happened.”

While the plan may have worked like a charm, Ashraf says the grandeur of his achievement hasn’t sunk in yet, saying: “It’s difficult to describe my emotions during and after but it was an incredible moment. I had no idea until after the match that I was the first Pakistani cricketer to complete a hat-trick in a T20I. I still cannot believe I did it and it’s only when people mention it to me that I actually believe it happened.”

That, and his breezy 64-run knock against Bangladesh in a Champions Trophy warm-up in the summer have turned Ashraf from a no one to a potential star, who is even being touted as the heir apparent to the great Abdul Razzaq.

That surge in popularity hasn’t gone unnoticed by the player himself, who said: “A few months ago, only my coaches, teammates and friends really knew about me. Hardly anybody had heard my name, but now due to the Almighty many people have heard of me. That warm-up match and then the recent hat-trick have really boosted [my profile] and made people recognise my name.”

Regarding his Razzaq comparisons, he feels it’s too early to say whether he can emulate the great all-rounder but says he takes it as a compliment.

 “I think the likes of Abdul Razzaq are fantastic cricketers, who are very difficult to replace,” he said. “I am at the start of my career, I am learning and looking to improve. The confidence given by the team management to me keeps me going and if that helps me get closer to the great Abdul Razzaq then that is a great thing for me and for Pakistan cricket.”

Ashraf is largely regarded as a bowling all-rounder, but he says he is a better batsman than he is given credit for and also harbours ambitions beyond being just a low-order slogger.

“I feel that I am no mug with the bat and that I have an array of strokes that can work for me,” he said. “I play positively and feel that I go out into the middle looking to be positive which is my natural game. I’m working on a few things regarding my batting and there are improvements required, but I’m happy with the progress that I am making with the bat. However, I want to be more consistent and not just regarded as a lower-order hitter.”