What makes a memorable catch? In most matches today, there are several efforts that are athletic as well as difficult to pull off, many of which are often game-changing. But some catches are still remembered years after they have been taken.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 provided several such moments. There were all manner of great catches – some made you admire the dexterity and limit of human capacity; others seemed relatively easier but were quite possibly the hardest to execute.
In a tournament filled with fielding of the highest standard, here is a list of the top ten catches in the World Cup, in chronological order.
Steve Smith v England in Melbourne; Pool A, February 14, 2015
Steve Smith is the quintessential modern-day cricketer. He contributes in every aspect on the field, alongside playing innings of rare quality. But while he can play shots that resonate to all parts of a cricket ground, his fielding is full of athleticism too. He has among the best reflexes on the field and is a livewire, a fact that was in evidence on the very first day of the World Cup. Smith was stationed at short cover, and Mitchell Marsh had the ball. With England at 92 for 5, chasinf 343, Jos Buttler gave the ball a mighty thwack. It was travelling like a rocket, but Smith reacted in the blink of an eye, leaping to his left with arms raised, pouching it and then breaking his fall like a Parkour runner. The universal reaction was, “wow”.
Craig Ervine v South Africa in Hamilton; Pool B, February 15, 2015
This was a classic boundary catch, the fielder flinging the ball in the air before coming back in and holding on. Given the high modern-day fielding standards, such takes have become de rigueur, but that still doesn’t take away the delight in watching an artful boundary catch. Especially when the wicket is of a certain AB de Villiers.
Zimbabwe’s Tafadzwa Kamungozi had given the ball plenty of air, and de Villiers lifted it high over long-off. Craig Ervine, stationed at the very edge of the boundary rope, somehow managed to take the catch with his left before going through the whole in-and-out process. A true humdinger.
Adam Milne v England in Wellington; Pool A, February 20, 2015
There really is no better sight than when a player flings himself full length through the air to claim a catch. Daredevilry, it is. Eoin Morgan walked back to the pavilion after being at the receiving end of one such act when England and New Zealand clashed at the Wellington Regional Stadium. Morgan had heaved powerfully off Vettori, and the ball was travelling. Milne, rushing towards long-on, timed his dive to perfection, stretching himself to the limit before emerging with the ball.
Jerome Taylor v South Africa in Sydney; Pool B, February 27, 2015
David Miller can hit the ball a long way. He had just shifted gears in what had all the makings of an onslaught when Jerome Taylor pulled off a stunner. Miller had thwacked Andre Russell straight down the ground, and had nearly cleared the ropes, but in a flash, Taylor was there with his right arm stretched above him, and a leap that was timed to clockwork. The ball’s progress was halted, and Taylor landed, without crossing over the boundary, in triumph. The men from the Caribbean know how to celebrate – Russell rushed to his teammate, went down on his knees and bowed gracefully. And the catch did deserve such a dramatic reaction.
Dale Steyn v Pakistan in Auckland; Pool B, March 7, 2015
When Dale Steyn roars, the whole stadium roars with him. With the ball in hand, Steyn is intense and it’s not often you see him break into a smile. But he does, and it is quite the sight. Ahmed Shehzad had mistimed a chip off Kyle Abbott towards long-on, but it seemed as though the ball would end up in no-man’s land. Steyn was having none of it though. He ran, eyes fixed on the white, round object, and leapt – nay, flew – with both arms outstretched. He emerged with the ball grasped firmly, arms stretched out behind him, before turning around, spreading them wide and smiling gloriously. The whole of Eden Park smiled with him then.
Quinton de Kock v Sri Lanka in Sydney; First Quarter-final, March 18, 2015
Why do you need a slip cordon when a ‘keeper can do the job all by himself? Quinton de Kock got South Africa’s semi-final against Sri Lanka off to the perfect start. Kyle Abbott had extracted some swing to find Kusal Perera’s edge. It was travelling towards first slip but de Kock dived with his left-arm outstretched. For a moment, it seemed he had it, but the ball bobbed out while he was still in the air. Down came the right hand to offer support, the ball was grasped on the second attempt, and Perera began his walk back. And it all took place in the fraction of a second, while de Kock was in mid-air.
Shikhar Dhawan v Bangladesh in Melbourne; Second Quarter-final, March 19, 2015
Another one of those boundary-rider catches, but this one had added spice because Shikhar Dhawan’s initial attempt was a fumble. Mohammed Shami’s short ball was pulled by Mahmudullah, the top edge going straight to Dhawan at long leg. Backpedalling, he had his arms raised, but it bounced out of his palms, ensuring a juggling act was to follow, and Dhawan did it expertly. He found his bearings quickly enough, claimed the catch but knew momentum would take him over the rope. He tossed the ball up, went out, came back in, and casually strolled towards the ball to complete the catch. A calm end, a great finish.
MS Dhoni v Bangladesh in Melbourne; Second Quarter-final, March 19, 2015
The enduring image of Mahendra Singh Dhoni is of a leader who keeps his calm regardless of what’s happening around. But for once, the great man allowed himself a moment to savour his own good work. Mohammed Shami had extracted a thick edge off Soumya Sarkar with a slower bouncer, and before you knew it, Dhoni was in the middle of a full-length dive, left glove outstretched. It was a clean catch, timed so very well, and when Dhoni got up, his face was wreathed in smiles to acknowledge the plaudits of the onrushing teammates.
Daniel Vettori v West Indies in Wellington; Fourth Quarter-final, March 21, 2015
A passage of play that was so beautiful, encompassed so much of the essence of the game, that it will be remembered as one of the World Cup’s defining moments. ‘Age is a just a number’ is a well-worn cliché, but it held true in this case. Daniel Vettori, at 36, literally plucked the ball out of the sky. Marlon Samuels had played an upper-cut off Trent Boult, and would have probably expected to clear the fence. For a while, it looked like the ball would sail over Vettori’s head, but the New Zealander timed his jump to perfection. He was airborne, stretched his left hand up and outwards and collected the ball from behind his body – all in one fluid motion.
Vettori remained as impassive as ever, but his teammates’ reactions told the story as they all rushed ecstatically towards him. The stadium meanwhile, was brought to its feet even as Vettori remained elegantly, smilingly nonchalant. What a scene.
Martin Guptill v South Africa in Auckland; First Semi-final, March 24, 2015
Another one-handed effort, one of many pivotal incidents in that semi-final classic at Eden Park. Rilee Rossouw and Faf du Plessis had collaborated well for a steadying partnership, but this Martin Guptill catch signalled the end of it. Rossouw didn’t get hold of a Corey Anderson’s back-of-length delivery, but the ball was travelling away from Guptill at backward point. No matter, it was all too simple for Guppy. A timely jump, one hand over his head, and the ball was conquered. Just like that, in one fluid motion.