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Ajaz Patel
World Test Championship

The best WTC23 bowling performances so far

WTC23

by Daniel Beswick

Hit For Six!
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The third Test ten-wicket haul of all time leads the list of exceptional bowling performances in the current World Test Championship 2023 cycle, with spinners so far dominating.

Four of the top five bowling figures so far belong to spinners, with Ajaz Patel's record-equalling feat joined by Sajid Khan and two beguiling spells from South Africa's Keshav Maharaj.

Ajaz Patel - 10/119 v India, Mumbai

Jim Laker, Anil Kumble, and as of December 2021, Ajaz Patel.

After saving the first Test match in their series against India at No.11, Patel well and truly usurped his batting feats with the ball at the Wankhede.

As his teammates toiled, Patel’s angles and natural variation were unstoppable on the Mumbai surface, taking the first four wickets on a rainy day one before a continued attack into day two. 

Patel claimed Wriddhiman Saha and Ravichandran Ashwin in consecutive balls, before breaking a 67-run stand between Axar Patel and Mayank Agarwal. The left-armer was unrelenting against the tail, claiming Mohammed Siraj for the final scalp, top-edging to Rachin Ravindra.

“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,” Patel said after the match.

Of the three bowlers, Patel is the only player to achieve the feat away from home, and in the first innings of the match.

Sajid Khan - 8/42 v Bangladesh, Mirpur

As light faded on a Mirpur day four, Pakistan fans would have been excused for thinking nothing could come from a match where only their side had batted.

Though as Babar Azam threw the ball to the off-spinning Sajid Khan, all the doubts dissipated.

Beating a uncertain Mahmudul Hasan Joy in flight with his fifth ball to open things up, Sajid doubled his tally with a loose Shadman Islam cut shot to Hasan Ali. A rush of blood from Mushfiqur Rahim gave the off-spinner his third, and a sharp caught and bowled hit back from Litton Das meant he had four of the first five.

Sajid would only pile on the pressure further, trapping Najmul Hossain Shanto with a delivery going straight on. A failed sweep ended the stay of Mehidy Hasan Miraz, before Taijul Islam fell in similar fashion to Shanto, albeit on the front foot.

Sajid tied things up with the dismissal of Shakib Al Hasan, picking out Azhar Ali while trying to hide Ebadot Hossain from the strike late in the innings. 87 all out and falling short of the follow-on mark, Bangladesh would go on to lose four more wickets at the hands of Sajid in a crushing home innings defeat.

Matt Henry - 7/23 v South Africa, Christchurch

The two-Test series at Hagley Oval was dominated by fast-bowling, though it was a performance on day one of the first meeting that would prove to go unrivalled - figures of 7/23 with six of the dismissals caught behind the stumps.

Bringing Dean Elgar forward into a loose drive in the second over of the innings, Henry drew the length back to undo Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen and Zubayr Hamza. Henry then pinned Kyle Verreynne lbw for his fifth, before picking up Kagiso Rabada in the same over, also edging behind trapped on the crease.

Glenton Stuurman was Henry’s seventh, as the length and bounce squared up the No.10, who was caught on the bottom glove.

Henry’s figures are the joint-best by a New Zealander at home in Test cricket, with the other 7/23 taken by Sir Richard Hadlee against India in Wellington way back in 1976.

Keshav Maharaj - 7/32 v Bangladesh, Durban

Similarly to Sajid Khan’s exploits, Bangladesh had no answer for the spinning guile of South Africa’s Keshav Maharaj, who picked up Player of the Match honours in both Test matches.

The first of Maharaj’s seven-wicket hauls came in the fourth innings at Kingsmead, with skipper Elgar opting to open with the left-armer. Beating the bat and pad of Mamudul Hasan Joy through the uncertainty of the new ball’s behaviour with spin, Maharaj feasted on a tentative tourist batting line up. 

Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim both fell lbw, providing no worthy response to the testing conditions. The pressure piled on Litton Das forced a feeble shot soon after, and Yasir Ali could do little in response to a sharp-turning delivery that crashed into the off-stump.

Consigned to defeat, Khaled Ahmed was South Africa’s ninth and Maharaj’s sixth, and the spinner ended the rout with a bat-pad catch to Wiaan Mulder. The hosts had skittled Bangladesh for 53 inside 20 overs, and Maharaj walked off to a standing ovation with his father watching on.

Keshav Maharaj - 7/40 v Bangladesh, Gqeberha

It was déjà vu for Bangladesh in the second Test, set a near-impossible target and facing the wrath of Maharaj again, crumbling to 80 all out and with only three players passing double figures.

Beating both edges of the bat, Maharaj was too good once more with the new ball. Attacking the stumps and forcing the opposition to play at everything, the slip cordon were called into action to dismiss Mahmudul Hasan Joy and Mushfiqur Rahim, while the umpire’s finger was the only thing in the way of claiming Najmul Hossain Shanto and Khaled Ahmed.

To a point, Maharaj had beaten a number of players as they walked out to bat. Unsure whether to counter or hang back, Maharaj had already won the game between the ears. Poor shots from Mominul Haque and Litton Das compounded Bangladesh’s misery, and another dimension of extra bounce was the secret ingredient of Maharaj’s wicket of Mehidy Hasan Miraz. 

Bangladesh would only face 4.3 overs more than their second innings in Durban, as Maharaj scooped up the Player of the Series trophy.

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