Ajaz Patel Celebrates Mumbai Homecoming With The Perfect Conquest

Ajaz Patel became only the third bowler to claim all ten wickets in an innings of a Test match.

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Ravichandran Ashwin is a smart athlete, with a sharp nose for cricket. He has an acute awareness for the sport and its machinations. And even though he may have felt out of place, to be confused at being bowled, it did not last long.

As he stood up in the dressing room a couple of hours later, he rose to applaud Ajaz Patel, who had just dismissed the last of the Indian team for a momentous ten wicket haul in the innings. Ashwin knew that he was not only a witness to history, but as much a part of it, being the sixth batter to be dismissed by Patel in an epochal effort that earned him all ten wickets.

Only Jim Laker (10-53) and Anil Kumble (10-74) stand beside the diminutive 5’6” Kiwi, who wove his way into one of the most elite clubs in the sport of cricket.


Earlier in the day, it was a sight to behold when Ashwin lifted his arm and bat to review a decision. Ajaz Patel produced a peach with an ageing cricket ball in its 72nd over. The left arm spinner teased Ashwin forward into defence, forcing him to address one that pitched on leg. The cherry was already turning though, beating Ashwin’s stretched bat before catching some wood on its way to a delighted Tom Blundell behind the stumps.

While Ashwin was frozen into an embarrassing corner, Patel was at home relishing the spin friendly behaviour of the pitch inside the Wankhede Stadium. The New Zealander was familiar to the setting, if not the circumstances. And on Saturday, Ajaz Patel had an entire team of Indians shuffling uncomfortably in the web of his fingers.

Ajaz Patel was coming home, to the country of his childhood, family and friends. After all his father, a refrigeration professional and mother, a teacher raised the boy in the western Mumbai suburb of Jogeshwari. They immigrated to the island nation in the Southern hemisphere in 1996. Ajaz was barely a cricketer when they reached a new shore, but he took to it at a local club.

At the time, he was bowling pace and going nowhere. Missing out on age group selections at the U-19 stage proved to be a blessing though, as former Test spinner Dipak Patel urged him to embrace the turn. But it was not until a few years later, well into his twenties, that finally Ajaz finally committed to bowling spin.

Reaching Mumbai, the 33-year-old knew he was wading into conversant waters. And it extended beyond being born in the city. Mitchell McClenaghan was making sure Ajaz had tickets to watch some Indian Premier League outings every time the latter was in India. The Black Caps pacer even arranged for the spinner to roll his arm over to some colleagues at the Mumbai Indians on the odd occasion.

“It’s (his familiarity) been spoken about quite a lot. The red clay here affords more bounce and pace. We will see how the wicket responds and set up a game plan accordingly,” said Ajaz going into the match.

“We know how good these guys are at playing spin and home conditions. It is a special challenge and something to look forward to.”


After rain washed out the first session on Friday, the Kiwi unsettled the Indian batters. First, Ajaz broke a healthy opening stand by getting a well set Shubman Gill to edge one to slips. Then he threatened to break their back, when he removed both Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli in the 30th over. By the end of the day, he had snapped all four wickets that fell.

“The game is evenly poised,” he said at the end of the first day’s play in this second Test match between the two teams. “We have done well to make inroads into their lineup. It is a big day tomorrow, and we will start again tomorrow morning.” But he hardly could have known, it was perhaps going to be the biggest day of his career.

Ajaz was delighted, already, for being richly rewarded at what he still considers home town. “Pretty cool, obviously this is what dreams are made of,” gushed Ajaz. “To go out there and pick up four wickets is pretty special. At the same time, the job is only half done. So we got to make sure we turn up tomorrow and work hard for the last six wickets.”

Even though he may have been speaking for the team, the 33-year-old got stuck into the second day and made the day all his own. A couple of early wickets – Wriddhiman Saha and Ashwin - opened the door and secured the fifer for Ajaz. He promptly kneeled down and kissed the ground, grateful for his returns.

Ajaz Patel became only the third bowler to claim all ten wickets in an innings of a Test match.

But the real story was only beginning to unfold. Even though Mayank Agarwal (150 of 311 balls) and Axar Patel (52 off 128) kept the Black Caps at bay, steering India to a comfortable total, Ajaz stuck to his task with a tireless effort.

It turned out to be an epic in the end. Soon as he finally managed to catch the edge of Mayank’s willow, it took just ten overs to run through the tail and collect the remaining wickets. It was perhaps appropriate too that he had Rachin Ravindra, another Kiwi with Indian heritage, at hand to collect the last two catches for a momentous ten-fer.

Unfortunately for Ajaz and his team, even the monumental effort may not be enough. The pitch is turning square and New Zealand looks set to struggle as they climb a mountain. But when the dust settles on this series and he looks at the ball again, Ajaz is bound to relish the memory deep in his soul. A perfect conquest in a Test innings is an incredible rarity and the 33-year-old will have many stories to regale his grandchildren in the cold winter.

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