India’s magnificent win despite Ajaz Patel’s rare feat

By Kersi Meher-Homji

If the first Test between India and New Zealand in Kanpur was a thriller last week, the second Test at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai had magical highlights and sidelights.

India triumphed in the Mumbai Test by a huge margin of 372 runs yesterday to win the two Test series 1-0.

Whatever the result, the Mumbai Test will be remembered for the fantastic bowling spell of New Zealand’s Mumbai-born left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel.

He took all ten wickets in India’s first innings, a unique occurrence at Test level. Previously Jim Laker and Anil Kumble had taken 10 wickets each in the second innings; Laker for England against Australia at Manchester in 1956 and Kumble for India against Pakistan at Delhi in 1999. Ajaz is the first player to achieve this feat overseas.

Ajaz is also the only left-hander to take all ten wickets in a Test innings. He took the first 12 wickets to fall and 14 out of India’s 17 wickets. Sadly for him and for New Zealand, he became the only bowler to achieve this feat for a losing team.

Batting first on a wet wicket, India’s opener Mayank Agarwal top scored with an eye-catching 150 which included 17 fours and four sixes. He added 80 runs for the first wicket with Shubman Gill (44 runs). Then Ajaz took over dismissing the experienced Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli for ducks. Axar Patel scored 52 and India totalled 325. The hero was of course Ajaz Patel who gobbled up all 10 Indian batsmen as mentioned above.

In reply NZ caved in for a miserably poor total of 62, fast-medium bowler Mohammad Siraj taking the first three wickets and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin grabbing 4 for 8 in eight economical and deadly overs. The absence of NZ captain and best batsman Kane Williamson due to injury was keenly felt.

Despite a big lead of 263 runs, India did not enforce follow-on and batted. They declared their second innings at 7 for 276. Agarwal again top scored with 62 aggressive runs and Ajaz took 4 for 106 to capture 14 wickets in this Test. India set NZ a near impossible target of 540 runs to win in two days and a session.

With off-spinners Ashwin and Jayant Yadav taking four wickets each, New Zealand was all out for 167, Daryl Mitchell top scoring with 60 runs. NZ lost by a huge margin of 372 runs with a day and half to spare. This is India’s biggest Test victory by runs. India won the two-Test series 1-0, the first Test in Kanpur last week was a thrilling draw.

Agarwal was the Player of the Match for his two match-winning innings and Ashwin Player of the Series for his all-round excellence.

Said Agarwal at the presentation, “Feels nice to be among the runs, this knock will be special for me. Very honestly, did nothing different after Kanpur. It was about having the mental discipline. Rahul bhai [coach Dravid] told me there’s no point thinking about technique mid-series. ‘This is the technique that has got you runs, have a solid mindset, stick to your game plans, the runs will come. Sunny Gavaskar told me to keep my bat low, be more side-on. I couldn’t do that early on but it helped. I wasn’t really thinking of a century in each innings, but yes definitely should’ve converted the 60. Different challenge in South Africa, we relish as a team.”

Player of the Series Ashwin remarked, “I enjoyed the pitch, it spun and had a bit more bite. It was a wonderful pitch. Every time you come to Wankhede, there’s something to look forward to. Before I get to what I did, it was wonderful from New Zealander Ajaz. He put the ball in the right places, I enjoyed watching him bowl. It was destiny, I think. Jayant and I have a good relationship from 2014, when he flew down to Chennai from Haryana to pick my brains. Axar, I’ve been playing for a while at Kings and Delhi Capitals. For starters, I’d look to play a part in South Africa and finish off with a series win.”

India starts her tour of South Africa soon, playing her first Test at Centurion on 26th December.

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