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July 22, 2005
As Australia stretched their lead past the 200-mark on the second afternoon at Lord's, the memories of their desperate start to the tour were becoming ever more distant. Remember those four defeats in a week, against England (twice), Bangladesh and Somerset? One man on the pitch certainly did. England's substitute fielder, James Hildreth.
Australia must have thought they'd seen the last of Hildreth when he blasted 38 off 24 balls as Somerset successfully chased an astonishing 343 in 50 overs at Taunton. But there he was again, standing at point, ready to give England a much-needed breakthrough by clinging onto a half-hearted steer from Ricky Ponting. In fact, he's managed one more catch than England's golden boy, Kevin Pietersen, has taken in three attempts.
Somerset are the only county not in action this week, so they were the logical source for a substitute - but Hildreth, 20, is a fine fielder in his own right. He is not the first county cricketer to make a mark as substitute fielder - or to coin the current phrase, Supersub. Paul Weekes, the Middlesex allrounder, had his moment of fame at Lord's in 1995 when he clung on to two chances at short-leg as England beat West Indies.
And where were you when Ben Spendlove, the Derbyshire batsman, also held two catches at short-leg, against South Africa at Edgbaston in 1998? He had been recommended to the England camp by Dominic Cork, his then-captain, who was returning to Test cricket in the same game.
And another Derbyshire man, Chris Adams, also picked up a brace, dismissing Navjot Sidhu and Sanjay Manjrekar against India Old Trafford in 1990, a full nine years before made his Test debut. He went on to represent England on five occasions, but Weekes and Spendlove never made it to the Test arena. Hildreth has shown enough glimpses of his talent to suggest he might have an international career - but whatever happens he will always be able to say he held a catch for England.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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