No. 24 May 31, 2009

Rhodes takes five

Not a bird, not a plane, it's Jonty on fire

Bombay, 14 November 1993

A wicketkeeper might be lucky enough to receive three or four "regulation" catches in the course of an innings, but any more than that will inevitably include a couple of classic grabs. For an outfielder to take five catches in an innings involves a skill so special, it remains a unique record almost a decade and a half after Jonty Rhodes set it.

Having displayed his talent to the world 18 months earlier at the 1992 World Cup by running out Inzamam-ul-Haq with a horizontal dive from backward point, Rhodes' reputation as a fielder had burgeoned.

But unlike batting and bowling records, there was no yardstick by which fielders could be measured. Hosts of competent slipsmen had taken three or four catches before, and brilliant point fielders like Colin Bland never had their run-outs and saved runs officially credited or recorded.

Rhodes changed all that at the Brabourne Stadium. Brian Lara began the show by splicing a pull shot harmlessly into the air barely five yards away towards square leg. The Rhodes sprint from backward point was so committed that, having clutched the ball, he landed and slid so far on his belly, he ended up close to the shocked batsman's feet.

Phil Simmons was looking ominous when Rhodes dived to his left at short midwicket to take an "impossible", one-handed catch. Jimmy Adams then clipped Pat Symcox to Rhodes at midwicket, before Anderson Cummins fell to a catch that was not so much impossible as absurd. A slashed cut shot against Allan Donald was flying towards third man when Rhodes leapt skyward, twisting backwards as he did so, and stuck out his right hand to take the catch behind the rest of his body.

Opener Desmond Haynes, having retired hurt earlier in the innings, returned to provide South Africa's young talisman a regulation offering to end the innings. The record catch may not have been special, but the moment was as magical as they come.

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency