Whenever India achieves victory over Pakistan in cricket, the entire nation celebrates with glee. On Monday, India along with New Zealand had a reason to celebrate the win in the Abu Dhabi Test against Pakistan. The reason being 30-year-old Mumbai born player Ajaz Patel, who picked up 5/59 in the fourth innings to help New Zealand beat Pakistan by four runs, their narrowest margin of victory in terms of runs ever. Patel, who migrated with his family to New Zealand in 1996, was coached by former spinner Dipak Patel and had a great run in domestic cricket for Central Districts which resulted in his call-up for the Test series against Pakistan.
However, Patel’s match-winning haul is not the only factor behind New Zealand’s win. It is their culturally diverse cricket team that has provided them their best moment. In the entire Test match, 15 off the 20 wickets have been taken by players who are originally not born in New Zealand. In addition to Patel, Colin de Grandhomme, born in Harare, picked up two wickets. Neil Wagner, born in Pretoria, South Africa picked up three wickets while Ish Sodhi, born in Ludhiana, Punjab took three wickets. Trent Boult was the only natural-born Kiwi to take four wickets.
Patel was the star on the fourth day as Pakistan was chasing 176 on a difficult Abu Dhabi wicket. They had made a great start on day 4, racing to 37/0 but immediately, Patel removed Imam-ul-Haq for 27 with Sodhi getting rid of Mohammad Hafeez for 10. After Sodhi got rid of Haris Sohail (4), Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq strung a 82-run stand for the fourth wicket and it seemed the game was up for New Zealand.
However, Wagner got rid of Shafiq for 45 and when Babar Azam, who had scored a vital 65 in the first innings was run-out for 13, New Zealand had a glimmer of hope. Azhar notched up a fighting fifty but at the other end, Pakistan panicked and threw their wickets away. Sarfraz Ahmed (3), Bilal Asif (0) and Hasan Ali (0) all departed in quick succession. When Yasir Shah fell to Wagner for 0, all hopes hinged on Azhar. However, Patel had other ideas. With four runs needed, Azhar played down the wrong line and was adjudged LBW. Pakistan took the review and replays showed ‘umpire’s call’ on impact and New Zealand had sealed a thrilling win.
After winning the Man of the Match award, Patel credited the relaxed environment of New Zealand cricket under skipper Kane Williamson, who himself played a big role with a gutsy 63 in their first innings total of 153. “A lot of credit goes to the environment we have; it is a very relaxed environment we have and we look to keep things nice and simple,” Patel said.
The next Test is on November 24 at the Dubai International Stadium. New Zealand will be gunning to seal the series, but in Abu Dhabi, it was a celebration of diversity and New Zealand’s own ‘rainbow culture’ of cricket.