'Special and surreal': 10-wicket hero Ajaz Patel basks in one of his 'greatest' days

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Ajaz Patel. (Photo by Punit Paranjpe/AFP)
Ajaz Patel. (Photo by Punit Paranjpe/AFP)

New Zealand's Mumbai-born spinner Ajaz Patel still had to regather himself after he claimed all 10 Indian wickets in the second Test, becoming only the third bowler in cricket history to achieve the feat on Saturday.

Ajaz, a left-arm spinner, added to his tally of four wickets on the opening day to return figures of 10-119.

India were all out for 325.

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England off-spinner Jim Laker was the first bowler to take a Test ten-for, against Australia in 1956 at Old Trafford.

He ended up with 19 wickets in an encounter that came to be known as "Laker's Match".

Indian spin ace Anil Kumble is the only other player to do so, against Pakistan in 1999 at Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla.

Ajaz called it "one of the greatest cricketing days" of his life and thanked God for his blessings.

"Obviously it is a special moment. It's brilliant for me, my family - my mum and dad and all their support, my wife," he told reporters at the end of the day's play.

"It's never easy being a cricketer, you spend a lot of time away from home. To be able to come back home to Mumbai and Wankhede and to be able to produce something like that is quite a special one.

"I am grateful to God, he has blessed me with this occasion in my cricketing journey."

Kumble tweeted: "Welcome to the club #AjazPatel #Perfect10 Well bowled! A special effort to achieve it on Day1 & 2 of a test match."

Ajaz, who emigrated to New Zealand in 1996 with his parents, was playing just his 11th Test for New Zealand since making his debut in 2018.

Now 33, his previous Test best was 5-59.

"Honestly, it's surreal and to be able to do that in my career is pretty special," he said. "The stars have aligned for me to do it in Mumbai.

"I'm in very illustrious company with Kumble sir as well."

Veteran Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh lauded his feat, saying: "Ajaz Patel This will be remembered forever 47.5-12-119-10 simply outstanding. Let me stand and clap."

Australia's Aaron Finch said: "That's the most amazing thing I've ever seen!! Ajaz Patel... What a phenomenal performance."

Ajaz had already described his return to Mumbai as "special" after taking four wickets on the opening day, adding that "this is what dreams are made of".

He had a middle-class upbringing in the Indian port city, where his father worked in refrigeration and his mother was a school teacher.

At the time the family emigrated he had little knowledge of New Zealand aside from the chocolates relatives already living there had sent them.

"When I think back on that, it is quite surprising that I sit here in New Zealand as an international cricketer knowing where I come from," Ajaz once wrote.

He found his calling in cricket and his heart was set on becoming a devastating fast bowler in the mould of national hero Richard Hadlee.

It was not until his mid-20s that he realised he was too short to make it as a quick, and switched from left-arm medium-pace to spin under former New Zealand spinner Dipak Patel. He thought it "might be fun" to try being a spinner, he once recalled.

The change transformed his career: he was selected for the national team at the late age of 30, and has now overtaken New Zealand's previous Test best of 9-52 by Hadlee himself, against Australia at Brisbane in 1985.

He sent down 47.5 overs in four spells out of a Kiwi total of 109.5 and bowled almost unchanged on day two.

Ajaz's achievement, however, was soured by his team being skittled out for 62 in reply.

"Ajaz really bowled well. It was extraordinary bowling by him. My plan was to put pressure on him but unfortunately I got out," said India seamer Mohammad Siraj, who later returned figures of 3-19 from his four overs.

In the New Zealand innings Siraj, who replaced injured Ishant Sharma in the team, struck early to send back Will Young for four.

He then got two wickets including stand-in skipper Tom Latham for 10, and Ross Taylor, for one, on either side of overs to be on a hat-trick that was avoided by Henry Nicholls.

"After I got injured (in the first New Zealand Twenty20 last month), when I started training, I did a lot of single wicket bowling with an aim to get as much swing as possible," said Siraj.

"That was my focus and when I would get the chance in a Test match, I had to consistently hit one area and that's what will help me build my rhythm."

Axar then got Daryl Mitchell out for eight and soon fellow spinner Ashwin joined in to claim Nicholls as the Kiwis slipped further.

Kyle Jamieson top-scored with 17 but none of the Kiwi batsmen survived the bowling onslaught as they went down to the lowest-ever Test score against India by any side.

The previous lowest Test score in India was the home side's 75 against the West Indies in Delhi in 1987.

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