In around 1700 test cricket matches played in over 100 years of the sport, only twice have all ten wickets been taken in a single innings by a single bowler. It is truly a Great Sporting Achievement to do so.
Jim Laker, 1956
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
If Laker don't get you, Locky must.
Yorkshireman Jim Laker (1922 - 1986) did it first in July 1956, somewhat satisfyingly for followers of English cricket, against the Australians in an Ashes series. Laker had previously in the same year shown the touring Australians what he could do, while playing for Surrey at the Oval, taking all ten wickets during a warm-up match to the Ashes series. Here was his chance to do it again in the Test arena.
After a win apiece and a draw in the opening three matches, the fourth test opened at Old Trafford on 26 July, 1956, with both sides eager for a win to take an unassailable lead in the five-match series. England captain Peter May won the toss and elected to bat first. It was a good decision. At the end of the first day, England had posted 307 runs on the board for the loss of only three wickets. Shortly after lunch on the second day, England were all out for 459 with both Peter Richardson and David Sheppard having scored centuries.
Australia's first innings reply was short-lived. They soon lost both openers, Colin McDonald to Laker and Jim Burke having been caught out by Colin Cowdrey off the bowling of Tony Lock. Between them, they'd scored 54 runs; the rest of the Australian team would only manage another 30 runs. Half an hour after tea they were all out for only 84. Laker himself had figures of 9 for 37, the best bowling figures in Test cricket for 60 years.
Forced then to follow on, the second day closed with Australia at 53 for 1, still trailing by 322 runs, left-hander Neil Harvey, the man out registering a pair1. Being Manchester in July, rain almost inevitably intervened and during the third and fourth playing days (either side of the rest day2) less than two hours play were possible. It was nevertheless sufficient for Jim Laker to add the wicket of Jim Burke to his tally, who was caught out by Tony Lock for 33 during the third day, having added nothing to his overnight score. At the end of day four, Australia had moved on to 84 for 2, still 291 behind.
Thus, on 31 July 1956, the fifth and final day commenced with Australia needing to bat through to secure a draw, a win now out of the question. It was a big ask, as they say in Australia. The pitch, which had shown signs of breaking-up after only the first day (leading some to level accusations that the pitch had been doctored for spin, all denied, of course, by the Lancashire authorities) was again drying out after the three wet days. The stiff gale that was blowing would only dry it out quicker, although it made conditions generally difficult for both batsmen and bowlers. Bowling prodigiously accurate and intelligent off-spin from the Stretford End, Laker slowly but surely whittled away the Australian order, his partner Tony Lock consistently beating the bat, but crucially not taking a wicket from the other end. Resistance came only from square-set Charlie MacDonald who managed a stubborn 89 before being caught by Alan Oakman... Australia 181 for 7. And when Lindwall went, Laker for the second time in the game had a nine wicket haul, but this time there was still one more wicket to fall with barely half an hour left to play before the close. Fortunately for Jim Laker, and for the history-writers, the Australian keeper Maddocks could only add two to the score before being trapped leg before, Australia all out for 205. Not only had England won the match by an innings and 170 runs, retaining the Ashes in the process, but for the first time in test cricket one bowler had taken all ten wickets in an innings. Australia had been well and truly 'Lakered'.
Laker's return of 10 for 53 in the second innings at Old Trafford remains the best test bowling analysis of all time. In total Laker had taken 19 wickets in the test, his opportunity for a complete clean sweep of the Aussies having been scuppered early in the first innings by his Surrey-based spin-twin Tony Lock. His match figures of 19 for 90 remain the record for any first class match, let alone a test match.
Anil Kumble, 1999
Laker's effort was matched at Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium on 7 February, 1999, by Indian Anil Kumble, against old enemy Pakistan. Indeed, Kumble's analysis of 10 for 74 masks the fact that he took all ten Pakistani wickets in one 21.3 over spell, conceding only 49 runs in the process.
India went into this match already 1-0 down in the two match series, desperate to avenge the narrow 12-run defeat by Pakistan in Chennai a week previously. Tensions in the 25,000 capacity ground were characteristically high, bordering on bedlam, Pakistan being jeered by a feverishly partisan Indian crowd, with the rotund Inzamam-ul-Haq being singled-out for particular abuse, labelled an 'aloo' - a potato. Meanwhile, the pitch itself already had its doubters, having been laid hurriedly after having been dug up by extremists opposed to any friendly relations between the two neighbouring nations.
So it was no surprise that when the match got underway, after India had won the toss and elected to bat, Pakistani spin-wizard Saqlain Mushtaq managed to capitalise on the conditions. The batting team closed at stumps on 247 for 8 with Saqlain having taken 5 for 94 off a mammoth 34.5 overs, including Tendulkar, cheaply. As if demonstrating the ground's propensity to take spin, wrist-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed also picked up two wickets on the day and it could have been more for the two spinners if the Pakistani fielders hadn't put ball to ground on several occasions.
India managed to add only five runs to the total before being all out early in day two, but Indian spinners Anil Kumble and 19-year old Harbajan Singh immediately followed Saqlain's suit by taking seven of the ten wickets during the Pakistani innings. Pakistan were bowled out in only four-and-a-half hours for 172. At stumps, India had scored 46 for 1 in their second innings, extending the lead to 126. Day three saw more of the same, India losing seven more wickets, but posting a decent score in return, Sadagoppan Ramesh's top-scoring with 96. At stumps then, India were 324 for seven, boasting a lead of 404, although it could have been considerably less, but for some favourable umpiring from home-grown umpire Jayaprakash.
Early into day four, India were all out for 339, having added only 15 to their overnight total for the loss of the last three wickets. Pakistan now had two days either to bat through for a draw or to post a world record fourth innings total of 420 runs to win the match. Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin set out to contain the Pakistanis rather than to attack them, in doing so attracting criticism of his tactics. At lunch Pakistan were 101 for no loss off just 15 overs and looked set for the target of 420 runs, with Kumble having gone for 25 off his first five overs.
But then things changed and an important piece of cricketing history was made. Shortly after lunch, Kumble bowled the second ball of his ninth over, now from the Pavillion end. A swish of willow through air later and Pakistani opener Shahid Afridi was perhaps controversially given out by umpire Jayaprakash whose impartiality had already raised a few eyebrows, caught behind by Nayan Mongia. The very next ball, Ijaz Ahmed was trapped LBW and again the finger went up. Kumble was on a hat-trick. He didn't get it, but 15 minutes later, Kumble had taken two more wickets in three balls. First down was the potato, Inzamam-ul-Haq, bowled, dragging the ball onto his own stumps and then Yousuf Youhanna plumb LBW. Moin Khan, caught by Sourav Ganguly at slip, was the next to go, followed by opener Saeed Anwar caught at short-leg. Kumble's post-lunch spell of 16 overs had yielded six wickets for 43 runs and, with Anwar gone, any hopes Pakistan had of saving the match were all but dashed.
Salim Malik was then clean bowled, indisputably Kumble's seventh victim after whom Mushtaq Ahmed was caught by Rahul Dravid to become the eighth. Pakistan's tail was exposed and it didn't take Anil Kumble long to stop it wagging. Saqlain Mushtaq was trapped LBW off the first ball of Kumble's next over. Goodwill from the captain assisted Kumble's cause, Azharuddin instructing Javagal Srinath to bowl wide so as not to take the tenth wicket. Inevitably it seems, Wasim Akram was then caught off the bowling of Anil Kumble and Kumble's name was entered alongside Laker's in the record books.
While supporters of Pakistan may denounce man-of-the-match Anil Kumble's effort as having been umpire-assisted, the fact remains that his figures of 10 for 74 are the all-time second best after Jim Laker's. Moreover, the victory ended India's 19-year and 16-match win drought against Pakistan, which had endured since 1979 when they had won a six-Test series 2-0.
Postscript - Richard Stokes, 1956 and 1999
In 1956, 10-year-old Richard Stokes, son of a B-Division Surrey cricketer was taken to Old Trafford by his father to see England play Australia in the fourth Ashes Test, specifically to watch the Surrey spin-paring of Laker and Lock. It was a dream come true for the boy as he was able to witness first-hand Jim Laker's phenomenal and, at the time, unique achievement.
Some 33 years later, Stokes, now a trainer for KPMG Finance in Germany, was on a business trip to New Delhi, India. It was his birthday, and he thought he'd take in a bit of cricket; he went to see India play Pakistan at Ferozeshah Kotla ...
I made it to the ground after lunch and Pakistan were very comfortable. Immediately, Kumble got two in an over and I told a friend of mine that I have brought luck to Kumble and India. When he had taken six wickets, I told him about my having watched Laker's feat, and he just said that history was about to be repeated. I merely laughed.
- Richard Stokes, Cricket Fan