When England's Jim Laker became the 1st to take 10 wickets in a Test innings
- Jim Laker took 19 for 90 in the 1956 Manchester Test
- Only Narendra Hirwani, with a 16-wicket return, has come close to his figure
- Ajaz Patel and Anil Kumble are the only other bowlers to take 10 wickets in an innings
Jim Laker was the first cricketer to take 10 wickets in an innings, achieving the feat against Australia in the 1956 Manchester Test. Till today, his 10 for 53 is the best bowling figure in an innings of a Test match.
Though Anil Kumble and Ajaz Patel, the latest entry into the elite list, took 10 wickets in an innings nobody has ever come close to what Laker achieved. Laker’s 19 for 90 is the best bowling figure ever registered by a bowler in a Test match. The only bowler who came close to him since he achieved the feat was India’s Narendra Hirwani, who claimed 16 wickets against West Indies in 1988.
Before dismissing Australia for 205 in the second innings, Laker made nine Australian batters his victims to bowl Ian Johnson’s Australia out for 84 in 40.4 overs.
But there was a controversy around the 1956 Manchester Ashes Test. England was on the backfoot against Australia at the start of the series. After a draw in Nottingham, on a lively Lord’s wicket, the visitors posted a big win to take a 1-0 lead. Heading into the third Test at Headingley, England’s best option of wrestling back the momentum was to let their Surrey spin duo of Tony Lock (left arm finger-spin) and Jim Laker (right-arm off-spin) dictate terms. They combined to take nine wickets in each innings (total of 18 wickets in the match) to dominate Australia.
Controversy around pitch
Naturally, heading into the fourth Test at Old Trafford in Manchester, the pitch was under focus.
“Bradman wouldn’t have lasted on that pitch,” is how one Australian — Len Maddocks — who played in that match described the 22-yards that was offered by the Old Trafford curator.
“Looking back on it, I still believe the English administration cheated. But not the England players; they played the game perfectly well, according to the traditions of the game, and they weren’t responsible for the conditions,” said Colin McDonald, the man who top-scored for Australia in the second innings with a remarkable 89 when no other visiting batsman crossed 40 in the entire match.
England won the toss and scored 459. The hosts would have been confident of winning on a pitch that would deteriorate but no one could have predicted what came next.
When Laker and Lock got into the act, Colin McDonald and Jim Burke looked comfortable enough. Twenty-eight had been added when England captain Peter May brought back Brian Statham to help the spinners switch ends.
Bowling from the Stretford end, Laker immediately had McDonald caught at short-leg. Neil Harvey was bowled off the second delivery, the ball pitching on leg-stump, turning across the face of the bat, hitting off. “It was the ball that won the Test,” Laker observed later.
‘Laker has taken all 10’
Returning after tea, Lock had Burke caught at slip. It was an important wicket, the only Australian wicket in the match not taken by Laker.
At the other end, the mild-mannered Surrey off-spinner ran through the side in another 35 minutes, taking 7 for 8 in 22 balls. The Surrey pro did turn his off-breaks appreciably, but the surrender of the Australians was remarkably docile.
Only four Australian batters managed a double-figure mark with McDonald scoring 89.
As Laker completed perfect ten, John Arlott in the commentary box announced the decision before the umpire. “Laker’s taken all 10!”
The famous figures read 51.2-23-53-10, 19 for 90 in the match.