A quintet of screamers
On Friday afternoon, Denesh "Shotter" Ramdin rocked onto the back foot to an innocuous Corey Anderson delivery and smoked it through point at a thousand kilometres an hour. The New Zealander with the golden arm, Trent Boult, leapt high to his left and snaffled Ramdin's cut shot like a lizard tongue reining in an insect for dinner.
My mate Jimmy had gone to get some cash and returned with a fistful of dollars. I assumed he'd nailed the optimal view on his pilgrimage to deep backward point. "Oh man, did you see that screamer snare by Boult?" I asked. "No," he replied. "I was perfectly positioned but facing the money machine." He missed the catch by 180 degrees.
That's the thing about cricket - you can sit there all day and the most exciting thing might happen when you're checking a text message, stuck in the Basin's war-era toilets, choosing between Tui or Tui Blond at the beer tent, or distracted by a man in a tie daring to walking past. I like to think that if you attend as much cricket as is humanly and financially possible, you ensure that you see more great moments than you miss.
I love that a great catch can come at any moment, but more importantly, it can come to anyone at any time. Even a crappy player in a crappy team can deliver an exquisite moment of stonkingly good catching.
The Boult snare had me reminiscing about where it stacks up in the annals of ripper catches. I'm not bold enough to dare analyse its place in the history of the cricket-catching universe, but I can weigh it up with all the other catches I've seen live in the flesh. These are the best ones I remember happening in front of my eyes, not etched in my memory via TV or historical footage on robelinda's Youtube channel.
5. Brendon McCullum v Rahul Dravid (Basin, 2009)
This one had cricket nerds around the world reaching for - and clicking for - the Laws of Cricket as McCullum went on his own little predictive path for a Dravid paddle sweep through leg slip. It was as good a piece of anticipation as you'll ever see, with the ball crashing into his belly button and Dravid wandering off in bewildered fashion. India were about 400 ahead at the time so there were no on-field tantrums or post-match political ramifications.
4. Shane Bond v Cameron White (Cake Tin, 2007)
As Soft Cell's "Tainted Love", 1980s synth pop, blares out annoyingly across the bitterly cold Wellington afternoon, Shane Bond continued to inflict a merciless ten-wicket hiding on Australia at Westpac Stadium. His third of five wickets on the day, this one was a caught and bowled to send belligerent middle-order batsman White back to the dressing room. It was about three millimetres above being a knuckle-dragger, low to Bond's right, and had umpire Billy Bowden cowering with fear behind the stumps at the bowler's end.
2. Mark Greatbatch v Bruce French (Eden Park, 1988)
It's one thing for a sinewy whippet like Trent Boult to panther around in the covers, but it is entirely another to see a chunky bundle of ferocity like Mark Greatbatch hurl himself around and pull in a stunning catch. Long before Greatbatch was parked at slip for New Zealand and reinventing the art of pinch-hitting at the top of the order, he could be found at square leg or point, patrolling the circle and chipping away with his Auckland Grammar verbal diarrhoea. I'll never forget seeing his catch to dismiss mountaineer-cum-wicketkeeper Bruce French. This was my international cricket-watching debut, and I was tucked up in the North Stand with Uncle Kelvin, drinking Milo and eating chicken chips. All 100kgs of Greatbatch were horizontal, full length and outstretched as he hauled in French's shot with one hand, dropped it, and then regathered it smooth as silk before he hit the ground. It was unreal. And I was addicted to watching cricket for life.
1. Mathew Sinclair v Matthew Hayden, (Telstra Dome, 2004)
For 16 years, Greatbatch's low-profile double-catch effort was the best in my living memory. But that all changed in 2004. On a stunningly sunny Melbourne day, our beige platoon traipsed to Docklands and into the weird, sunscreen-free, night-like world of the indoor stadium. We ended up soaking up quite a bit of Jim Beam and one of New Zealand's best-ever ODI wins against the Aussies.
Jacob Oram lumbered in, and Matt Hayden swaggered down before pummelling a pull shot over square leg. Enter Skippy Sinclair - a right-handed fielder roving on the boundary who had been busy retrieving leather from behind the rope for the first few overs. He chucks a speculative left hand out, the white ball sticks, and he stands up with a triumphant point to the crowd. He screams: "What the hell do you think of that?" before hoisting the ball into the dome's sub-canopy, adjusts the waistband of his too-big pants, and heads into the team huddle laughing his head off. He's just pulled off the best outfield catch that most of the 30,753 Australasians in attendance have ever seen.
Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here