John Pryor looks back through time at some of the most famous dropped catches in cricket history.
The number one Test match ranking changed hands in dramatic fashion this weekend; needing to win the final match of the series versus South Africa in order to hold on to top spot England went into the final day still needed 329 runs with only eight wickets remaining. Sadly for the home side it was not to be and they fell just 51 runs short of their target. Understandably, areas in which England failed to perform have been highlighted within the England setup and in the media.
One of these areas was in their fielding, and more specifically their catching, the old saying ‘catches win matches’ certainly echoed around the England dressing room at times this series. England, who are normally so good in the field, dropped an alarming amount of chances costing them over 600 runs throughout the series. Two of the most notable cases occurred in the final Test match and could well have turned the tide of the entire series; wicket-keeper Matt Prior dropped Hashim Amla on two; Amla went to make an outstanding 121. Likewise, James Anderson dropped AB De Villies on eight, he went on to make 41 but was a crucial partner for Amla during his match-winning innings.
Pundits such as former England captain Nasser Hussain have sought to explain England’s slippery hands so Cricket World thought it would be more entertaining to look back at some of the most expensive, or important, dropped catches in cricket history.
Certainly the most expensive in terms of runs was the dropped catch by Durham Wicketkeeper Chris Scott. In 1994 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston Scott dropped Brian Lara off the bowling of Simon Brown, and he shrewdly remarked, “I suppose he'll get a hundred now.” At the time Lara was on 18, and he went to score 501, the highest inning in first-class history; the catch had directly cost Durham 483 runs.
Other players which teams dropped at their peril included the likes of Virender Sehweg, Graham Gooch and the great Sachin Tendulkar. In the first Test match of the 2004 series versus Pakistan in Multan, Indian opener Sehwag was dropped three times on his way to a stunning 309.
Gooch was only given one lifeline though the damage in terms of score was even greater, as was the damage to a young bowler’s career. On 36 in the Lords Test against India in 1990 Gooch edged behind off the bowling of the young Sanjeev Sharma only for the catch to be put down by wicket-keeper Kiran More. Gooch went on to score the highest innings total ever at Lords - 333. Sadly, the young bowler never played another Test.
After the 2011 World Cup semi-final in Mohali between India and Pakistan, former Pakistan captain Imran Khan stated: "You don't drop Tendulkar four times and win a match." This was very true of this particular match; Tendulkar scored 85 runs from 115 deliveries, India won by 29 runs and progressed to the World Cup final.
History has also seen dropped catches change the course of entire series as happened in the recent England versus South Africa series. In 2002 the West Indies narrowly defeated India in a home Test Match series 2-1. The first Test in Guyana was a draw but only thanks to the heroic first innings total by West Indian captain Carl Hooper.
Hooper scored 233 runs having been dropped by the Indian wicket-keeper Deep Dasgupta on nought. Arguably one of the most important dropped catches in recent Ashes history was by Shane Warne; in the final Ashes Test with England leading 2-1 in 2005 he put down Kevin Pietersen on 15. Pietersen went on to score 158 and secure the Ashes for England. The commentator reacted to the drop by stating that Warne, traditionally an excellent catcher, may well have just dropped the Ashes.
So when the England team sit down and look back over the numerous dropped catches which may have cost them their number one Test ranking this summer they can be comforted by the fact that they are not alone. The history of cricket is awash with dropped catches which changed the course of matches and even entire series.
© Cricket World 2012
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