Indian cricket was undergoing tremendous heartbreak in the 1999 series against Pakistan. Sachin Tendulkar, battling back spasms scored an epic 136 in the Chennai Test but the Indian cricket team suffered a collapse which saw them lose the match by 12 runs. Recovering from the heartbreak quickly was necessary for the side heading into the second and final Test in Delhi. Anil Kumble, India’s best legspinner, dispelled the gloom with a historic haul that would go down in the record books. On February 7, the world witnessed Kumble taking the ‘Perfect 10’, which is taking all 10 wickets in an innings and Pakistan were left shell-shocked.
India chose to bat and buoyed by Sadagoppan Ramesh’s 60 and Mohammad Azharuddin’s 67, India managed to reach 252 with Saqlain Mushtaq once again taking 5/94. Pakistan floundered for 172 and gave India a crucial 80-run lead. Kumble provided a trailer of the damage he was going to cause by taking 4/75. He was well-backed up by Harbhajan Singh’s 3/30 and Venkatesh Prasad’s 2/20. Ramesh was unlucky to miss out on his century as he was caught and bowled by Mushtaq Ahmed for 96 and Sourav Ganguly’s 62 helped India to 339 all out, setting Pakistan a target of 420 for an improbable win. Saqlain once again ended with a brilliant haul of 5/122, thus ending the series with a five-wicket haul in every innings.
Pakistan made a good start in response with Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi taking the attack to the Indian bowlers. At 101/0, a contest was on the cards. Enter Jumbo and the match turned in a dramatic way. Kumble bowled a flatter ball that straightened outside off, Afridi (41) reached out and looked to drive but got an edge which was given out by umpire Arani Jayprakash. The floodgates had opened and Kumble proceeded to rip through the Pakistan batting in style.
In the very next ball, Kumble darted a quicker yorker to Ijaz Ahmed (0) and he was given out LBW. Inzamam-ul-Haq tried his best to survive but a delivery from Kumble kept low and he got an inside edge onto the stumps to be dismissed for 6. After surviving one ball, Yousuf Youhanna, who had hit a fifty in the Chennai Test, was trapped LBW by a quicker delivery from Kumble. The wickets continued to tumble and Kumble accounted for Moin Khan (3) with a delivery that drifted in on leg stump and it spun away, Moin edged the ball and Ganguly at slip took a low catch.
Anwar had looked solid with a fifty but on 69, he was undone by a Kumble delivery which straightened and leapt up from the pitch and the inside edge lobbed to short leg. Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram steadied the ship and for a time, it seemed Pakistan weathered the Jumbo storm. The dup stitched a 58-run stand and both looked comfortable. However, Kumble was not done. The right-arm legspinner produced a short delivery which zipped through, Malik (15) was late on the pull and he missed it and the ball clipped the middle and leg bail. Once again India found the opening and Kumble was gunning for history. Mushtaq Ahmed (1) could not keep down a delivery that leapt up from the deck like a spitting cobra and he could only edge it to Dravid who took a simple catch. When Kumble trapped Saqlain (0) plumb in front, he was one wicket away from history. Realising that Jumbo was on the cusp of something special, Javagal Srinath and the other bowlers bowled wide and ensured the final wicket would not go into their kitty.
#OnThisDay in 1999....
26.3 overs— ICC (@ICC) February 7, 2019
🔟 wickets! @anilkumble1074 tore through Pakistan in Delhi with a stunning 10/74, becoming just the second man after Jim Laker to take all ten wickets in a Test innings! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/B8Nz2bRbeL
On the third ball of the 26th over bowled by Kumble, Akram prodded forward and got an inside edge onto the pad that was taken by VVS Laxman at short leg. Kumble ended with figures of 26.3-9-74-10 and he became only the second bowler after England offspinner Jim Laker to have taken all 10 wickets in an innings. Laker achieved this feat when he took 10/53 against Australia in the Manchester Test in 1956. In the same match, he took 9/37 to finish with 19/90 in 68 overs, which remains the best ever-figures by a bowler in Tests.
Kumble’s haul had given the nation plenty to celebrate. In an interview to ESPNCricinfo 10 years after the event, the legspinner said, “It was destiny.” Indeed, it was!