Before February 7th, 1999 not many Indians would have heard about Jim Laker. But a certain turn of events on that foggy day in India’s capital New Delhi, meant that Laker was now a household name and a new phrase- perfect 10- was a part of the vocabulary of an Indian cricket fan.
The protagonist of this event was none other India’s long time match-winner Anil Kumble. It could not have been a better setting, as the venue was his favourite ground- the Ferozshah Kotla- and the opponents were the arch-rivals, Pakistan. He ended up taking all the ten Pakistani wickets in the fourth innings of the match and thereby helping India win the match by a massive margin of 212 runs.
Kumble’s figures of 10-74 in 26.3 overs and in the process he became the second bowler after England’s Jim Laker to take all ten wickets in an innings. Jim Laker had taken 10-53 against Australia way back in 1956.
It took 43 years and 1015 tests for someone to emulate Laker’s feat. Not surprisingly there hasn’t been another “perfect 10” even after 17 years of Kumble’s magical show at the Kotla.
From 101/0 to 128/6
Coming back to that historical spell, Pakistan were cruising at 101 for no loss in pursuit of their target of 420 runs when the Kumble show began. In the 25th over of the innings, Kumble had Shahid Afridi caught behind, and on the very next ball, he trapped Ijaz Ahmed leg-before. Inzamam-ul-Haq averted the hat-trick, but the slide for the Pakistanis had begun.
Within an hour, Pakistan had slipped to 128 for six wickets from 101 for no loss, with Kumble taking all the six wickets. As per Kumble, this was when he had realistically started thinking about the perfect 10.
But he had to wait as veteran batsman Saleem Malik and all-rounder Wasim Akram tried to put together a fight. The duo batted for around 15 overs before Kumble came back for the knock-out punch. He clean bowled Malik, and with that wicket, Pakistan lost all the hopes of a draw.
Srinath’s wayward over
Kumble then accounted for the Pakistani spinners Mushtaq Ahmed & Saqlain Mushtaq of successive deliveries and was on a hat-trick for the second time in the match. With the over coming to an end, Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin famously asked Javagal Srinath to bowl a wayward line in a bid to help Kumble get the perfect 10.
Srinath obliged, and an over later, history was created at the Kotla. Kumble did not take the hat-trick, but nevertheless, on the third ball of the over, he had Wasim Akram caught at short leg. With that wicket, India won the Kotla test and Kumble got his name registered in the history books of Test match cricket.
He was adjudged as the man of the match, and in the post-match presentation, he said, “I would like to take this wicket with me wherever I go.”
When Kumble and Tendulkar became superstitious
There was also an interesting bit of superstition that Kumble followed in that innings. When the Pakistani openers were going all guns blazing, Sachin Tendulkar got a bit superstitious and decided to hand over Kumble’s sweater and cap to the umpire himself, instead of Kumble doing it as a normal procedure.
As luck would have had it, Kumble got two wickets in that over and thus Tendulkar continued this little tradition till Kumble got all the ten wickets.
Well, this trick may not have worked always after that innings, nor was Kumble able to carry this wicket everywhere he went. But it certainly was a day which the cricket fans of the 1990s will never forget. Also, whenever there is a discussion about the greatest bowling spells in Test matches, Anil Kumble’s 10-74 will find a definite mention.Published 07 Feb 2016, 19:14 IST