On this day (February 7) in 1999, Anil Kumble became the first Indian and then only the second bowler to take 10 wickets in one innings of a Test match. The former Indian leg-spinner achieved this feat against arch-rivals Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla, now known as the Arun Jaitley Cricket Stadium, in Delhi. Before him, England’s Jim Laker (1956 v Australia) was the only one to claim all wickets in an innings.
“A 'Perfect Ten' isn't something you set out to achieve as a cricketer. I would attribute the events of 7th February 1999 to destiny.”
India had already lost the first Test in Chennai - yes, in which Sachin Tendulkar slammed that famous century - and had no other option but to go all out in the second encounter in Delhi. Opting to bat, Sadagoppan Ramesh (60) and skipper Mohammad Azharuddin (67) scored half-centuries and got India to 252 in the first innings.
The Delhi surface offered a lot of turn, making India’s first-innings total quite a challenging one. Kumble (4 for 75) and Harbhajan Singh (3 for 30) then gave nothing away and bundled Pakistan out for just 172, giving India a lead of 80. Sadagoppan Ramesh then fired in the second innings as well and played a match-winning knock of 96.
Rahul Dravid (29), Tendulkar (29), Sourav Ganguly (62*) and Javagal Srinath (49) all played crucial knocks and set Pakistan a daunting target of 420. Pakistan had to survive more than five sessions to save or win this Test, but little did they know what Kumble was going to do to them in the final innings.
Mind you, Pakistan started well, with Saeed Anwar (69) and Shahid Afridi (41) putting on 101 runs for the opening partnership. However, that’s when Kumble got Afridi caught behind, and all hell broke loose.
Talking about his dismissals, Kumble had previously told BCCI, “The floodgates opened with Afridi’s dismissal. I wanted to keep him as quiet as possible. He got a nick, and Nayan Mongia did the rest behind the wickets. The breakthrough had been affected. Ijaz Ahmed, the new man, had this habit of plonking his front foot down the track. I decided to bowl one that was right up to him. The cherry hit him right in front, and the umpire raised his index finger. We were on a roll.
“I was lucky with Inzamam-ul-Haq’s wicket. He had committed himself to the front foot and played away, only to inside-edge the ball onto the stumps. Mohammad Yousuf and Moin Khan followed soon after. Anwar’s wicket was special, for he was batting well, with over fifty runs to his name. I tried to break his concentration by switching from over the wicket to around and back. He was taken at short-leg.
“That made it six wickets out of six, and it was at this point that I started thinking in terms of bettering my previous best of 7 for 49. Mind you, I wasn’t thinking about taking all ten wickets! The Tea break came at the right time as I was tiring after having to bowl non-stop in that session.”
#OnThisDay in 1999, #TeamIndia spin legend @anilkumble1074 became the first Indian bowler and second overall to scalp all the 10 wickets in a Test innings. 👏👏— BCCI (@BCCI) February 7, 2021
Watch that fantastic bowling display 🎥👇 pic.twitter.com/OvanaqP4nU
From 101 for no loss, Pakistan collapsed to 128 for 6 in no time, and India could easily sense a series-levelling victory. Then there was a 58-run stand between Saleem Malik (15) and Wasim Akram (37), but Kumble once again returned to knock over Malik. Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq didn’t last long, and Pakistan were reduced to 198 for 9. The unbelievable record was there to be achieved and India did everything in their power to make it happen, including not taking a catch off Srinath’s bowling.
"I don't think Sadagoppan Ramesh, or for that matter, any fielder in the history of the sport, would have been shouted at by his teammates not to catch the ball. 'Sri' (Srinath) was among those who shouted the loudest! It was flattering, and at the same time embarrassing. It wouldn't have been fair had a bowler of Sri's calibre been forced to bowl an over like that. I was on top of my bowling mark, Sachin providing me with his good-luck routine. What followed was a blur. It was a great day, a memorable day."
The platform was set, and Kumble got rid of Pakistan skipper Akram to etch his name in the record books. The leg-spinner finished with figures of 10/74 in 26.3 overs. India won the game by 212 runs and managed to level the two-match series.
Kumble finished his Test career with 619 wickets in 132 matches, the fourth-most in this format.
In December 2021, New Zealand’s Ajaz Patel too joined Laker and Kumble by claiming 10 wickets in an innings. The left-arm spinner took 10 for 119 in 47.5 overs against India in Mumbai, but New Zealand still went on to lose the game by 372 runs.