Best actors in a supporting role

Substitutes who played a significant role while fielding in matches

Steven Lynch

August 5, 2013

Comments: 22 | Text size: A | A

WG Grace and Billy Murdoch, 1908
Grace and Murdoch: one captain replaced the other on the field and helped dismiss his own side © PA Photos
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Kevin Innes
It's many a batsman's dream: score a century then put your feet up for the rest of the match. And that's what happened to Innes in 2003: he made 103 not out as Sussex ran up 619 for 7 against Nottinghamshire in Horsham, and then immediately dropped out of the match to accommodate James Kirtley, who had been released from an England squad. Wisden reported: "Kirtley was there in time to see his alter ego reach 100. The situation was so unusual that the ECB computers - and at least one daily paper - credited the runs to Kirtley, who did take over in the field." It was the first century in first-class cricket by the 12th man - and remained Innes' only first-class hundred.

Gary Pratt
The Australians had already been grumbling about what they saw as England's tactical use of frequent sub fielders during the epic 2005 Ashes series, when Ricky Ponting was run out at Trent Bridge by a direct hit from one of them, Durham's Pratt. It was an important moment in the tight fourth Test - and provided one of the images of the series, as a scowling Ponting hurried off, only to spot the England coach Duncan Fletcher grinning broadly in the pavilion. Some choice language ensued. This - and a place on the open-top bus after the Ashes were won - was the highlight of Pratt's otherwise low-key career.

Gursharan Singh
A new Test record was set in Ahmedabad in November 1983 when Gursharan, a young Delhi batsman, took four catches as a substitute, three of them off Kapil Dev in the second innings. Gursharan, who was once marooned on 298 not out in a first-class game, played just one Test match, in New Zealand six years later.

Younis Khan
Gursharan's innings record lasted for almost 18 years, until Younis Khan grabbed four catches, all off the bowling of Danish Kaneria, as Bangladesh followed on in Multan in August 2001. It probably made up - if only slightly - for Younis missing out on a bat as five of Pakistan's top six scored centuries in a total of 546 for 3.

Sydney Copley
The first Test of the 1930 Ashes seemed to be tilting Australia's way when, chasing a distant 429, they reached 267 for 4. But then Stan McCabe hit Maurice Tate uppishly towards mid-on, where a member of the Nottinghamshire groundstaff, Copley, was fielding in place of the unwell Harold Larwood. Wisden informs us that he "made a lot of ground, took the ball at full length and, although rolling over, retained possession". England went on to win by 93 runs. It was Copley's only significant mark on the game: he made his first-class debut a week later, made only 4 and 3, and never played again.

Don Topley
Some 54 years after Copley came Topley. West Indies won their 1984 Lord's Test by cantering to 344 for 1 on the last day, but earlier in the match they had been in a spot of bother, only about halfway to England's first-innings 286 with five wickets down. Then a Malcolm Marshall hook flew towards the boundary, where MCC groundstaff lad Topley took a brilliant one-handed catch. Sadly, though, it didn't count: he had put a foot on the boundary rope, so it turned into a six. Topley had a long county career with Essex, during which he had a spell coaching Zimbabwe. He helped them upset England in the 1992 World Cup, and gleefully informed Graham Gooch, his county captain and England's skipper too, that he'd be mentioning it rather a lot in the upcoming season. "Trouble is," warned Goochie, "I don't get to too many second-team games…"

Billy Murdoch
The first substitute catch in a Test match was taken by a member of the opposing side… and the captain, to boot! When WG Grace injured a finger in the first Test ever played at Lord's, in 1884, the fielder who came out to replace him was the Australian skipper, Billy Murdoch. He was soon in action, when Australia's top scorer, "Tup" Scott, offered a catch off the legspin of AG Steel. Murdoch held on, and his side were all out.

Adam Dobb
The Lord's Test against New Zealand earlier this summer ended in comical fashion: the Kiwis' rapid decline to 68 all out was completed when Neil Wagner sliced high to long leg, where Dobb - one of two MCC ground-staff substitutes - just failed to cling on to a difficult swirler. But the batsmen indulged in a spot of ball-watching, and Wagner was stuck in mid-pitch when Jonny Bairstow's return hurtled in to James Anderson. The other sub was Billy Root, younger brother of England's Joe.

Peter Cantrell
If the Queensland batsman Cantrell had known he was going to be asked to be Australia's emergency fielder during the first Ashes Test of 1990-91 in Brisbane, he probably wouldn't have gone to a nightclub at all, let alone stayed there till 3am. Somewhat bleary-eyed, he was sent out onto the Gabba - and hung on to two catches, one a blinder to account for Alec Stewart. Five years later Cantrell played for the Netherlands (where he'd coached and played for some time) in the 1996 World Cup.


Michael Vaughan, Gary Pratt and Andrew Flintoff ride on top of the bus in the victory parade, London, September 13, 2005
Gary Pratt (centre) with Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff on the open-top bus at the victory parade in London for England winning the 2005 Ashes © Getty Images
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Matt Boyce
Josh Cobb was the Man of the Match when Leicestershire won the Twenty20 Cup final at Edgbaston in 2011. But the award could easily have gone to Leicester's 12th man, Boyce, who took four catches, all off Cobb's bowling, as Somerset fell short. The previous year Boyce had won the match award in a T20 game at Edgbaston, against Warwickshire, after running three people out… again while on as a sub.

Mike Denness
The South African allrounder Eddie Barlow's hat-trick for the Rest of the World in an unofficial Test against England at Headingley in 1970 was completed in unusual fashion. The World XI only had one substitute of their own, so when Barry Richards (back) joined Rohan Kanhai (hand) on the injured list, it was England's 12th man, Denness, who trotted out. Come Barlow's hat-trick ball, and Don Wilson popped up a bat-pad catch to short leg - where a rather embarrassed Denness clasped it.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013

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Posted by kirands on (August 8, 2013, 4:11 GMT)

One instance of a substitute figuring prominently in a Test match, almost as sensational as the Gary Pratt one, was Madan Lal in an India-Australia Test match in Sdney in 1977-78. Peter Toohey who was on 85 swung Karsan Ghavri hard to deep squareleg but Madan Lal, the substitute fielder sprinted a good distance and came up with an extraordinary catch, and within a few minutes of this, India went on to win the Test by an innings and two runs.

Posted by brisCricFan on (August 6, 2013, 6:38 GMT)

@FieryFerg - funny you mention that Peter Cantrell was a specialist gully fieldsman and replaced Carl Rackemann on that occasion.

Qld's first ever Sheffield Shield victory was sealed when a screaming cut shot was taken in the gully region... by none other than Carl Rackemann.

But notwithstanding - the recent English teams have substitutes in a line in the dressing room... it almost appears that each player keeps a spare in case they need a bit of a freshen up in between overs...

Substitutions should only be permitted for injury/illness

Posted by neel219 on (August 6, 2013, 6:01 GMT)

@alicheema - very true, that was the Test when Shoaib announced himself on the world stage. Also, i always felt that the Pak captain should have called Sachin back. he got out after his bat was grounded but was in the air after the collision

Posted by   on (August 6, 2013, 0:09 GMT)

James Marshall was used as a substitute fielder by England, before he had played for New Zealand. He was on a scholarship to Lords, and the English team decided to use him. It was a good choice as he took a sensational catch that turned the match in England's favour.

Posted by FieryFerg on (August 5, 2013, 22:04 GMT)

Glad to see mention of Peter Cantrell - just highlights Aussie hypocrisy about the use of Gary Pratt in 2005. Cantrell was picked as sub because he was a specialist in the gully and that was exactly where he took the screamer to get Stewart. Think he was replacing Carl Rackemann who was a plodder, so not exactly a straight swap!

Posted by   on (August 5, 2013, 20:06 GMT)

Peter Cantrell still lives in the Netherlands and has a Dutch wife. He still played club cricket for Kampong Cricket Club up to about four years ago.

Posted by kalyanbk on (August 5, 2013, 18:33 GMT)

I remember that WV Raman was used as a close in catcher in the 1992/93 England Series of India. Someone would always mysteriously find a way to leave the field and WV Raman would end up in a close in catching position and took some stunners off Kumble and Raju.

Posted by alwai on (August 5, 2013, 17:16 GMT)

During England's tour of India during 1961 some of the English players were sick and they were unable to field with 11 players.India's reserve player A.G.Kirpal Singh of the then Madras team fielded for England as substitute if my memory is right he took a catch also.India won the series.

Posted by   on (August 5, 2013, 16:10 GMT)

In 2nd T20 between Pak Vs Aus in UAE 2012, Yasir Arafat played an excellent role as a substitute. When he came into field it immediately change the complexion of the game, by taking a brilliant catch of top scorer G. Bailey and a direct hit run out from a throw near to boundary.

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Steven LynchClose
Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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