Fifteen-wicket hauls do not come everyday, but during this week we saw two such instances recorded in first-class cricket. The two bowlers who achieved this are Saqlain Sajib of Bangladesh ‘A’ and Chris Rushworth of Durham.
Sajib, a left-arm spinner with considerable first-class experience, returned match figures of 15/132 for Bangladesh ‘A’ against Zimbabwe ‘A’ in the first unofficial Test at Cox’s Bazar. On the first day of the match itself, he destroyed the Zimbabwean batting order to finish with 9/82 in 31.1 overs in the first innings, which ended at 206. These are now the best ever bowling figures in an innings by a Bangladeshi, bettering the 9/84 taken by Abdur Razzak for Khulna against Chittagong in 2012-13. He lost the chance of a perfect ten when off-spinner Farhad Hossain took the sixth wicket to fall. Interestingly, all of Sajib’s nine victims were caught by fielders. The Zimbabwe ‘A’ spinners bowled equally well to restrict the hosts’ lead to five runs.
But Sajib sealed the contest with another skillful display in the second innings. This time his figures were 6/50 in 21.2 overs as Zimbabwe ‘A’ subsided to 108. His performance eventually helped Bangladesh ‘A’ to ease to a six-wicket win. On a pitch tailor-made for the slower bowlers, all the 34 wickets in the match fell to spin. These match figures of 15/132 are now the best by any Bangladeshi. Razzak was the holder of this record too – he had taken 15/193 for Khulna against Barisal in 2011-12. In his 53-match career for Rajshahi (the team he currently plays for) and Chittagong, 25 year-old Sajib has taken 244 wickets at 20.91. He made his debut in 2006-07, but due to the plethora of left-arm spin options available for the national side, has never been able to press his case. Perhaps this feat will give the selectors something to ponder about.
Just a day later, it was the turn of Durham fast bowler Chris Rushworth to do the same, against Northamptonshire at Chester-le-Street. Moreover, he took all the 15 wickets on the same day and that too in the space of a mere 18 overs. After Durham made 392 in their first innings, Rushworth took over on the third day – effectively the second day, as the first day had been washed out – and consigned Northants to a first-innings total of 83 in just 23 overs. His figures were 9/52 in 12 overs, the best figures in this county season. He was denied a ten-wicket haul when Ben Stokes took the ninth wicket. A few minutes later, Rushworth repeated the mayhem, this time taking 6/43 in just eight overs. Northants, already relegated, were shot out for a pitiful 90 in 17.2 overs. The dismal performance of the Northants batsmen made India’s second innings in last month’s final two Tests against England look like masterpieces in batsmanship.
Rushworth’s 15/95 are the best match bowling figures in the county Championship since 2000, when Martin Bicknell took 16/119 for Surrey against Leicestershire. Also, they are now the best first-class match bowling figures by a Durham bowler, eclipsing the 14/177 by Alan Walker against Essex in 1995. Durham’s best innings figures remain the 10/47 taken by Ottis Gibson against Hampshire in 2007. 28 year-old Rushworth has been representing Durham since 2010. In 54 first-class matches till date, he has taken 182 wickets at 24.84. Strangely, he had failed to take a single five-wicket haul this season, but now sits third in the list of highest wicket-takers this season in Division One with 58 scalps. Durham, the 2013 champions, are placed fifth in the table with a match to go. Yorkshire have won the title with a round remaining.
As far as Test cricket is concerned, it has been a while since a fifteen-wicket haul was recorded. The latest such instance was Harbhajan Singh’s 15/217 for India against Australia at Chennai in 2000-01.