In 2349 men's Test matches, a ten-wicket innings haul has been achieved just three times. We take a look at each heroic effort.
Jim Laker - 10/53 (51.2 overs) v Australia - Manchester, 1956
Travelling from Headingley after an innings victory to level the series one match apiece, England, largely through the off-spin of Jim Laker, came into the fourth 1956 Ashes Test match high on confidence.
Laker was in imperious form, taking 11 wickets as Australia fell to 143 and 140 all out, and the Old Trafford surface was tipped to spin big. Batting first after captain Peter May won the toss, England largely negotiated Australia’s spin duo of Richie Benaud and Ian Johnson, posting 459.
England’s opening quick bowlers Brian Statham and Trevor Bailey bowled just ten overs between them, with Jim Laker working in tandem with Tony Lock. Changing to the Stretford End, Laker rolled through the tourists to claim 9/37 from 16.4 overs.
Following on, Australia could not answer the questions asked by Laker who continued to roll on, taking the wickets of Neil Harvey (0) and Jim Burke (33), though the offie faced another challenge: the weather.
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Less than two hours of cricket were played across days three and four of the match, and play was delayed on day five, opening the door for Australia to save the Test with eight wickets in hand.
Laker was impeccable on day five, making the most of the Manchester surface which took spin. Despite a resistance from Colin McDonald and Ian Craig to take Australia through to lunch, Laker shone as the sun came out in the afternoon. He claimed 4/3 in a nine-over spurt in the afternoon session, and the key scalp of McDonald with the second ball of the final session for his seventh of the innings. Benaud fell as the last recognised batter, before Laker took the wicket of Ray Lindwall for number nine.
At 5:27pm local time, Laker created history. Hitting Len Maddocks in line, he claimed the final wicket leg before wicket, finishing with figures of 10/53, and match figures of 19/90. No other player has taken more than 17 for the match.
Reflecting on his opponent’s achievements years later, Benaud declared that he was so impressed by Laker’s performance, he tinkered his own style to resemble that of Laker’s.
Anil Kumble - 10/74 (26.3 overs) v Pakistan - Delhi, 1999
The second Test of the 1999 series between India and Pakistan will forever be remembered for Kumble’s perfect ten.
Needing a victory to level the two-match series after Pakistan’s dramatic 12-run win in Chennai, Kumble looked in fine touch, taking 4/75 to help India to an 80-run first innings lead. Claiming the wickets of Ijaz Ahmed, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf, Kumble also finished the job by trapping Saqlain Mushtaq in front to end the innings.
India pushed on to set Pakistan a target of 420, who had the best part of two days to claim an unlikely win, and made a strong start through a first-wicket partnership of 101 between Shahid Afridi and Saeed Anwar.
Kumble broke the partnership with a quicker delivery, as a striding Afridi edged to Dinesh Mongia with the gloves for 41. He then struck the front foot of Ijaz next ball, dismissing him lbw.
Pakistan’s hopes of victory were dashed in a matter of minutes, and efforts moved to saving the match. Kumble, with his probing, aggressive line, continued to torment. Forcing tourists to play at everything, Kumble’s fizzing pace through the air, and the natural variation thrown up by the Feroz Shah Kotla surface, made the leggie impossible to counter.
Inzamam-ul-Haq chopped on trying to push a ball into the covers, and two balls later, Yousef was adjudged lbw as Kumble again picked Pakistan’s middle order apart. Moin Khan fell to a diving catch from Sourav Ganguly at slip, and Saeed Anwar, who provided the biggest challenge, was caught at bat pad for 69.
At 128/6, the match result was a foregone conclusion, though Kumble had a record to try and match. Bowling through the entire second session of the fourth day, Kumble regrouped at Tea, and claimed his seventh when a short ball kept low on a pulling Saleem Malik, whose stumps were disturbed.
Kumble passed his previous best individual figures of 7/59 with his eighth wicket, finding the glove of Mushtaq Ahmed who ballooned a catch to Rahul Dravid. As the field crept in, Kumble fired the next ball past Saqlain Mushtaq, who was unable to get his bat down in time for a plumb lbw. Kumble completed the perfect ten in his next over, with Wasim Akram (37), edging another close-in catch for VVS Laxman. Kumble was mobbed by teammates, as he rushed to collect a stump as a memento.
Ajaz Patel - 10/119 (47.5 overs) v India - Mumbai, 2021
After Laker and Kumble, Ajaz Patel made his mark in the record books on day two of the second Test match between India and New Zealand in Mumbai, the city he was born in.
“I remember (Kumble’s) 10-for,” Ajaz said after the haul of his own on day two.
“I have seen highlights of that game plenty of times. It’s a very illustrious group to be a part of, it’s great to see his message and his kind words. Humbled and fortunate to be in that company."
Saving the first Test through a resolute batting performance, it will forever be his record-equalling bowling performance this tour will be remembered by - joining the ten-wicket club as the only player to do so away from home, and in the first innings of the match.
Patel claimed the first four wickets of India’s innings in a truncated day one, with India sitting on 221/4 at the conclusion of play. The Black Caps quicks were unable to make any early headway, with Patel breaking through a tough Indian top order through a mixture of guile and clever angles with his left-arm orthodox.
Dismissing Wriddhiman Saha and Ravichandran Ashwin in consecutive balls, Patel registered his first six-wicket haul, though the ending to the story would end in unbelievable fashion. He was tried with the second new ball to no avail, though New Zealand’s pace attack also went without success, unable to make the most of the movement in the air.
Ajaz was re-introduced, impressive and indefatigable. Breaking a 67-run stand between Axar Patel and the imperious Mayank Agarwal with a peach to remove the opener on 150, one felt something special may have been around the corner. Dismissing Axar half an hour later, Ajaz had the final three Indian batters in his sights. Jayant Yadav holed out to Rachin Ravindra at long-off for Ajaz’s ninth, and Mohammed Siraj could only top edge a slog, also taken by Ravindra at mid-on. Before the celebrations, Ajaz had his heart in his mouth.
"It was a nervous time. We backed Rachin to take it, but the ball wobbled and we were all nervous,” he said. "I told Neil Wagner, during drinks, that I was more nervous now than I was all game. We don't have these moments as cricketers often.”
For Patel, his name in the same record column as Kumble and Laker still doesn’t feel real.
“After I came off the field, things happened too quickly. These things don't sink in until later. It's brilliant for me, my family and my wife. You spend a lot of time away from home as a cricketer, and I'm just grateful to God for this occasion.”
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