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Wisden’s men’s Test spells of 2021: No.1 – Ajaz Patel 10-119

Ajaz Patel's 10-For Was, In Its Own Way, To Be Expected From A Player Who Could Be New Zealand's Greatest After Vettori
by Richard Edwards 4 minute read

First in our list of the best Test bowling performances from 2021 is Ajaz Patel’s historic 10-119 against India in December late last year. This article first appeared in Issue 52 of Wisden Cricket Monthly.

Ajaz Patel 10-119

India v New Zealand

Mumbai, second Test, 3-7 December 2021

Ajaz Patel insists that he hadn’t given ‘the perfect 10’ even a second thought until, suddenly, he was one wicket away from history. Four balls later, all that changed.

In 144 years of Test cricket, only two bowlers had ever taken all 10 in an innings before. And as Rachin Ravindra circled under the high ball, sent skywards from the tailender Mohammed Siraj, he had plenty of time to contemplate that fact.

“I felt sorry for him!” Patel tells WCM. “There were a lot of us who were nervous for him. He had a job to do, so was probably just focused on that ball, but it was a long wait before it came down. It seemed like it was up there forever.”

Ravindra kept his cool, pouching the catch to send Patel and his Kiwi teammates into a frenzy. Such is cricket, the delirium was short-lived, with New Zealand soon contemplating defeat after they were skittled for just 62.

The Black Caps went down in the match by 372 runs, but Patel’s achievement would remain untouchable, securing his name in folklore alongside Jim Laker and Anil Kumble, the only other bowlers to take a full house in Test cricket.

“I’m not a massive historian but this is a pretty easy one to remember because the list is so short,” he says. “Before that game, and even during that game, it wasn’t something I had ever thought about. It was only when I walked off and people started talking about it that you realised just how special it was.”

And to do it at Mumbai, the city where Patel was born 33 years ago, added an extra layer of significance.

“Honestly, I didn’t think about it until I’d taken the ninth. I knew I had four balls left and that things could happen pretty quickly. Four balls to get the wicket, otherwise it might have been a different story from the other end.

“I was pretty fortunate, the first ball almost crept through and then the second went sky high for the catch. It was surreal. I still don’t really know how I feel about it. For me, destiny played a part in that. It has been awesome to see the reaction to it – and how much joy it has brought everyone.

“At the end of the first day I had taken four wickets and I remember looking at the honours board at the Wankhede Stadium and thinking how cool it would be to have my name on there with a five-for. I never imagined that I would leave my name in that fashion.”

It didn’t take long for the congratulatory messages to start flying in, some of which were post-marked in Cranleigh, the Surrey club that Patel first represented as a slow left-armer in his late teens. Before that he had been a left-arm quick.

“I played up to under-19s as a left-arm seamer,” he says. “But I wasn’t really growing much. I was doing well but I wasn’t really getting picked. I knew it was probably down to my height to some degree, and if I wanted to continue in the game then I had to do something different.

“It was a tough call at the time but when I did my first season as a spinner it was playing for Cranleigh. It has been a crazy journey since and a lot of hard work to get my craft right.”

A few weeks later, New Zealand announced their squad for the home Test series against Bangladesh, and such are the vagaries of cricket that Patel, who only made his international debut three years ago and has featured in just 11 Tests since, was not named in it. He was said to be philosophical at the snub. Apparently they wanted him to work on his batting…

This article first appeared in Issue 52 of Wisden Cricket Monthly.

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