On February 7, 1999, Indian spin legend Anil Kumble entered the record books by capturing all 10 Pakistani wickets in the second innings of a Test at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla. Arunabha Sengupta revisits that magical spell and takes a look at the wickets as they fell.
That magical two hours and 22 minutes that saw the honest sweat of Anil Kumble trickle into the annals of immortality. After low first innings scores on a dusty Feroz Shah Kotla wicket, India seized the advantage on the third day with Sadagoppan Ramesh following up his first innings 60 with a boundary-studded 96.
When the innings ended on the fourth morning at 339, the target stood at 420. It had never been scored in Test cricket, and the Indian fans eagerly anticipated avenging the Chennai heartbreak.
However, Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi started the innings in a display of flamboyant confidence that had fielders and spectators wondering about the certainty of an Indian victory. The pitch, suspect and substandard, hastily re-laid after vandalism by fundamentalists, seemed to have lost its venom. The batsmen seemed to cruise along, untroubled. At lunch, Kumble’s figures read a not too flattering none for 27 from six overs, bowled mostly from the Football Stand End.
After the break, Mohammad Azharuddin, convinced that only Kumble could make an impression on that pitch, asked his ace leg-spinner to switch over to the Pavilion End.
As he started his third over of the new spell, Pakistan had just crossed hundred, and commentators were speculating that the balance was tilting towards them, and soon they could approach the chase as a new innings of a little over 300 runs required in the last innings.
Ten on ten
Kumble pitched the third ball of the over outside the off stump. Afridi flirted at it, there was a distinct noise and the bowler and wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia leaped up in appeal. Umpire AV Jayaprakash raised his finger.
Afridi looked disgusted. He lingered around to demonstrate his displeasure and walked back mouthing the choicest of swear words. However, Kumble still claims that there was a big edge. Whatever be the truth, they had lost their first wicket at 103.
Ijaz Ahmed came in and Kumble fired one down the middle – his favoured ploy against a new batsman. It struck the pads on the full. Jayaprakash did not hesitate in raising his finger again.
Inzamam-ul-Haq managed to survive the hat-trick, but did not stay long. Tentatively prodding at a short of good length delivery, he ended up playing on to his stumps. Pakistan were three down for 115. And two balls later, Mohammad Yousuf – then known as Yousuf Youhana – played down the wrong line as Kumble fired his faster delivery down the middle and was trapped plumb.
Moin Khan, in good nick with the bat and a decent player of spin, was promoted in the order ahead of an injured Salim Malik. But, he did not last long either. Pushing forward, he got a lifter that took the edge and looped to slip. It was 127 with half the Pakistan side back in the hutch, and Kumble had taken all five.
It was in the next over that Kumble realised that he could create history. Anwar had been batting beautifully. The leg-spinner came round the wicket to bowl on the rough outside the left-hander’s off stump, but it had been negotiated with ease. Now, Kumble came back over the wicket and floated a slow leg-break. The ball kissed Anwar’s bat, hit the front pad and lobbed to VVS Laxman at short-leg. It was 128 for six and Anwar walked back for 69. Kumble claims that it was at this moment it dawned on him that he could capture all ten.
He had to wait, though. For almost an hour, Malik held fort with Wasim Akram. Kumble, tiring by now, seized the opportunity of coming back refreshed as the players walked back for tea.
Malik, injured and restricted in movement, was now outfoxed by the Indian leggie. The ball was pitched short, and the batsman instinctively went for the pull. He was late on it and the ball did not rise as much as he expected. The ball hit the top of the stumps and Malik paused for a significant while in disappointment before starting out on that unavoidable walk. The Pakistanis were not the happiest walkers in the world.
Four overs later, Mushtaq Ahmed got a nasty one that shot up from the turf. The ball struck the shoulder of the bat and lobbed to Dravid in the slip. The very next ball, again fired straight to the new man, struck Saqlain Mushtaq low on his pads right in front. Pakistan were nine down for 198. Kumble stood on the brink of history.
Half a decade earlier, when Kapil Dev had aimed for the world record of Richard Hadlee, Kumble had bowled wide of the stumps against Sri Lanka to allow the Indian all-rounder to get there. Now, that role was played by Javagal Srinath.
The first ploy of Kumble had been to allow a single to Akram and attack Waqar Younis. However, when Akram refused to take singles, he bowled a normal leg-break. Akram played at it and the inside edge travelled fast to short leg. Laxman swivelled around to his left and clutched it. India had triumphed by 212 runs. And Kumble had entered the record books with 10 for 74. The second man to get 10 in an innings after Jim Laker’s 1956 feat against the Aussies at Manchester.
After lunch, Kumble had bowled 20.4 overs at a trot, bagging all ten for 47.
Indian fans celebrated with unconfined joy which characteristically went somewhat overboard. The moment Kumble took his final wicket the 25,000 crowd at the Kotla broke into an ecstatic dance, chanting “Kumble”, “Kumble”. A snake charmer played his pipe outside the ground in a fitting background score. The Indian team carried Kumble to the pavilion in their arms. Even as an army of security personnel fought to control the hysterical crowd, Kumble’s shirt was grabbed and torn by fans clamouring to reach out and touch their hero.
However, one can wager that Kumble did not mind a torn garment or two. That magnificent soldier of Indian cricket got appropriate reward for everything he did on that glorious day. He fully deserved it.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)