There have been almost 2500 tests. Somewhere around 10,000 days of play. But you’d have to search high and low to find a day’s play as wild as the second between the Black Caps and India in Mumbai, which ended with the hosts well on top.
In the morning, the story was Ajaz Patel, the left-arm spinner born in Mumbai, but playing for New Zealand, who returned to his hometown and became the third bowler to take 10 wickets in an innings, after England’s Jim Laker and India’s Anil Kumble.
In the afternoon, host broadcaster Star Sports tracked Kumble down to send Patel a message. “Congratulations,” he said. “Enjoy the day, enjoy the occasion, and welcome to the club”.
The problem was that by then, he was back in the field, bowling on less than three hours rest, and a series win for India appeared inevitable. There was enjoyment to be had there somewhere, but it was undoubtedly bittersweet.
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* Mumbai homecoming for Ajaz Patel as Black Caps chase rare test win over India
Because the Black Caps had been dismissed for 62, the lowest total ever scored in India and the lowest total they’d made in more than eight years, since they were rolled for 45 in Cape Town by South Africa.
This collapse won’t prompt the soul-searching that one did. New Zealand men’s cricket has come too far in the eight years since, as evidenced by their rise to No 1 in the world and their win over India in June’s World Test Championship final.
But it was nevertheless an innings to forget – one that meant Patel’s piece of history will be regarded as wasted in the final analysis.
The flip side of him taking 10-119 in 47.5 overs was that the rest of the Black Caps bowling attack took 0-206 in 62.
Fifth bowler Rachin Ravindra was battling illness, so he can have a pass. But Will Somerville lacked any threat for the second match in a row, and his inclusion over Neil Wagner appeared to be an even greater mistake than it did on day one. Kyle Jamieson’s fourth wicket-less innings came at the worst possible time.
Mayank Agarwal played a fine innings in making 150, and he received valuable support from Axar Patel, who made 52, once Ajaz Patel struck in his first over of the day to peg India back to 224-6.
They needed to finish the job quickly from there, but by the time Patel struck again, removing Agarwal in his first over after lunch, they had already made 291 after winning the toss and batting, a total that was going to put the Black Caps under the pump.
Patel surged towards his milestone and celebrated it with passion. The broader context doesn’t render his achievement entirely meaningless. It’s only been done three times before in tests – never before in a first innings and never before on the road. His figures were the best by a New Zealander, surpassing Sir Richard Hadlee’s 9-52 against Australia at The Gabba in 1985. That he is a child of Mumbai only makes the story richer.
But it could have been richer still had the Black Caps batsmen done their part. There was no Kane Williamson, watching on nursing his troublesome elbow. Devon Conway had been ruled out long ago with his broken finger. They were missed, but those left offered next to nothing.
It’s always tough in India, especially when the hosts get on a roll. A pitch that was helpful to their spinners made things tougher. Stand-in captain Tom Latham made 10 at the top, but the only other batsmen to score in double figures was Kyle Jamieson, who entered after tea with the score 38-6.
His innings of 17 – and Somerville’s 26-ball duck – helped the Black Caps avoid total embarrassment. They passed the dreaded 26 mark only three down, but at 53-8, they were still one run shy of their fifth-lowest total.
They ended up with their sixth-lowest, and the worst in India since the hosts made just 75 against West Indies in Delhi in 1987. Mohammed Siraj took 3-19 at the top and Ravichandran Ashwin finished things off taking 4-8. Patel was left as the man not out.
Three hours after the Black Caps – and the whole of the cricketing world – were celebrating his achievement, they were setting new records they’d prefer everyone forgot.
Patel finished the day bowling nine more tired overs, as India progressed to 69-0 in their second innings. He could have had an 11th wicket – that of Cheteshwar Pujara, LBW – if the umpiring had been better, or he’d opted for a review
The hosts’ lead sits at 332 and there are three days to play. Barring a miracle – and when you’ve seen 10 wickets fall to one bowler, you can’t rule one out – the only question now will be around when they decide to declare and go for the win.
At Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai: India 325 (Mayank Agarwal 150, Axar Patel 52, Shubman Gill 44; Ajaz Patel 10-119) & 69-0 (Mayank Agarwal 39no) met Black Caps 62 all out (Ravichandran Ashwin 4-8, Mohammed Siraj 3-19)