There are many records in test match cricket which are broken over the ages and improved records are added in the record books. The test or ODI record for the highest score for example. And then there are certain records which are very difficult to touch and cannot be broken. For example, Jim Laker’s record of taking 10 wickets in an innings which he achieved against the touring Australians at Old Trafford, Manchester in 1956. He also had 9 wickets in the first innings and his 19 wickets in a test remained a world record.
20 years back, on 7th February 1999 Indian ace leg spinner Anil Kumble equalled Laker’s record of 10 wickets in an innings when he ran through a strong Pakistani batting line to take all 10 wickets in the Feroz Shah Kotla ground in Delhi.
Pakistan was touring India after a gap of 12 years and already had a 1-0 lead in the series after winning in Chennai when they reached the Indian capital Delhi. Indians wanted to take revenge and started brightly with top order contributing. Sadgopan Ramesh led the way with a 60 and middle order was held by a classy 67 from captain Azharuddin. At 231 for 4, India were threatening to get many more but as the nature of these games suggests, Pakistan clawed back and took last 6 wickets for 21 runs. Two of those were run outs. India finished with 252. It was early on the second day.
Pakistan started their innings shakily and never recovered. For them, the highest individual score was a candid 32 from Shahid Afridi. Four Indian bowlers shared wickets with Srinath taking one, Venkatesh Prasad taking 2, Harbhajan Singh taking 3, and Anil Kumble taking 4 wickets. India got a handy first innings lead of 80 and built on it. Ramesh played his best innings and scored 96, decorated by 15 boundaries. In the lower middle order, Ganguly and Srinath made important contributions. Srinath missed his half-century by a solitary run and Ganguly remained unbeaten on 62. The target for Pakistanis was set as 420. A target which was never chased in test cricket and with almost two more days to go Indian fans were confident of a win.
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But Pakistan started confidently and the openers batted till lunch. 100 was scored with a run-rate more than 4 runs per over. Anil Kumble kept toiling hard. On his 7th over with Pakistan’s score at 101, he finally managed to get a nick of Afridi which was gleefully captured by the wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia. Afridi was distraught and acted as if there was no chance of he playing that ball but in those days of no DRS had to walk back. Dangerous Ijaz Ahmed came but Kumble got his foot in line of the wicket first ball. Suddenly Pakistan were without two wickets. Inzamam came at number four, played with his trademark lazy elegance. But with the score on 115, he was bowled to quicker delivery from Kumble. Kumble got another wicket in that over as Mohammad Yousuf was leg before on the 5th ball. At 115 for four the Pakistan chase looked in jeopardy. Soon Kumble got two more as Ganguly caught wicketkeeper Moin Khan in the slips and then the opener Saeed Anwar was also gone after scoring a half-century, caught by Laxman at short leg. This was Kumble’s 6th wicket in that innings and 10 for the match.
Veteran Saleem Malik and captain Wasim Akram built a partnership and there was no wicket for a 16 overs period. But none of the Indian players looked worried as wickets were expected to fall at any time. Finally, after adding 58 runs in the partnership Malik was bowled by Kumble playing a pull shot after scoring a difficult 15 of 67 balls. By then Kumble’s 10 wickets in the innings looked very much possible.
Few overs later, Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq were gone in back to back deliveries and Kumble had 9. There was an interesting 60th over of the match, bowled by Javagal Srinath where all the Indian players including Srinath did not want to take the wicket. On the other hand, Pakistani number eleven Waqar Younis was trying to get out to not give Kumble all ten. Luckily Kumble ended all this drama in the next over. A forward push from Akram took the age and flew to short leg for Laxman to grab. With that Anil Kumble became just the second person to take all the ten wickets in an innings in a test match. India was victorious by 212 runs. Kumble’s second innings analysis was 26.3-9-74-10.
Celebrations went on for hours and days. The win over Pakistan was always special and was no so frequent during the ’90s. Kumble ended with 14 wickets in the match. Interesting stories started to come up. The umpire AV Jayaprakash who made all the decisions for Kumble was from the same state, Karnataka. Sachin Tendulkar considered being the lucky charm for Kumble. Before the over in which Kumble took the first couple of wickets, Tendulkar took his cap and sweater and handed it to the umpire. Once the wickets were fallen, Tendulkar kept doing it before every over till the match end.