All you need to know about Ajaz Patel, New Zealand's spin hero

Ajaz Patel celebrates the wicket of Mohammed Siraj, his tenth wicket   | Photo Credit: PTI

In 1996, eight-year-old Ajaz Patel left Mumbai, his birthplace, with his parents to start a new life in New Zealand. He returned 25 years later to the same city, this time as a New Zealand Test cricketer, playing against the country of his birth. In the second Test, Ajaz took all ten wickets in a Test innings at the Wankhede Stadium, becoming only the third bowler to achieve the feat in Test history.

Ajaz joined England’s Jim Laker (10 for 53 in 1956) and India’s Anil Kumble (10 for 74 in 1999) in the illustrious list. Ajaz, who bowls left-arm spin, finished with 10 for 119. His first was the wicket of opener Shubman Gill, caught at slip. His tenth was Mohammed Siraj, caught at mid-on quite fittingly by a fellow Indian-origin player, Rachin Ravindra.  

Ravindra and Ajaz had helped New Zealand save the previous Test with their dogged defence, when defeat looked imminent. The pair batted out 52 balls to deny India a victory with New Zealand nine down battling for a draw.

When Ajaz made his Test debut in 2018, he joined a list of Patels who have played Tests for New Zealand. All happen to be spinners. After Dipak and Jeetan, Ajaz debuted for his adopted country against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. It was worth the wait for Ajaz, who had just turned 30, as he took 5 for 59 (a match haul of 7 for 123) in the second innings to help his side win a thriller.

Ajaz took the wickets of Imam-ul-Haq, Sarfraz Ahmed, Bilal Asif, Hasan Ali and the most crucial wicket of captain Azhar Ali, the final wicket to fall, with Pakistan five short of a win. Pakistan collapsed from 130 for 3 to 171 all out, losing the first Test.

Ajaz had started out as a fast bowler and it was only in his twenties when he decided to experiment with spin. There was no looking back since then, with Ajaz making his first-class debut for Central Districts in 2012.

Ajaz finished as the overall leading wicket-taker for three consecutive seasons in the first-class Plunket Shield – 2015-16 (43 wickets), 2016-17 (44 wickets), and 2017-18 (48 wickets).

Prior to his Test debut, he played two T20s for New Zealand in the same tour, taking one wicket. And just like his then coach Dipak Patel, who made news when he opened the bowling during the 1992 World Cup, Ajaz too was given the new ball, this time in the shortest format.

Ajaz became the ninth New Zealand bowler to take a five-wicket haul on Test debut. He also claimed the Man of the Match award.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 3:47:03 PM |

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