Friday, 10 July 2015

Column 22, 2015 – The best catch ever

Printed in The Cricket Paper, issue 125, Friday July 10, 2015.
[Full text below]

Ben is a first-year uni student, back for the summer seemingly twice the size and twice the player. Under a high one at deep square leg last week, he was composed enough to take his eye off the ball and note that his heels were just inside the rope – any step back would mean six. As it happened, he pouched it cleanly without moving.

I think it was probably Adam Voges, Australia’s late blooming Test batsman, (who may or may not have made his Ashes debut by the time you read this,) [he did] who raised the bar for the boundary catch, as recently as 2009.

Every aspect of cricket has changed at a dizzying rate these last few years.

If you were to draw a graph for the pace of change in human history, it would be a more-or-less horizontal line for tens of thousands of years, curve sharply from the start of the industrial revolution, and in the latter part of the twentieth century, go more-or-less straight up.

A compressed version of this graph has happened in cricket in the last few short years, with the IPL standing in for the industrial revolution.

KP’s reverse-slog-sweep six off Murali ushered in the ‘switch hit’ paradigm shift. A few years later Voges was, I think, the first to pull off the type of spectacular solo relay catch that has yet to be satisfactorily christened.

He caught the ball right on the line, realised he was going to overbalance, tossed it up before he did so, then scrambled back inside the rope to complete the dismissal, in the process redefining the boundaries of the phrase ‘good catch’.

Ridiculously, this kind of audacious athleticism has become commonplace.

When Boult and Southee combined with slick precision in a full pelt duet version at the Oval last month, it only just made the highlights package.

Wednesday evening we were away at a picturesque little club in the grounds of a private estate. The boundary was an indistinct fluffy strip where the cut grass merged into meadow. Under one at long on, mindful of Ben’s check, I set myself inside the last definitely mown bit, knowing that any backward step would probably mean conceding the benefit of the doubt to the batsman.

The ball was going over me, so my only option was to blindly stick one arm out behind me and hope.

I reckon I could try it 100 times, and the next 99 the ball would land with a disappointing thud in the long grass. This time though, that fizzing angry-hornet sound a well-struck cricket ball makes stopped abruptly behind my head in my outstretched hand, making me look like the nonchalant catching genius I’m definitely not.

Amongst the exuberant high-fives, Ben declared it to be the best catch he’d ever seen. Hardly. But 2009 is an aeon ago to a teenager, so coming from Ben, I’ll take it.

- ends 485 words -

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