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There is nothing like a fine catch - like Jean Symes' to remove Ramnaresh Sarwan - to give any match a kick up the backside
September 19, 2010
"There is," Rodgers and Hammerstein concluded in 'South Pacific', in an age when all men were hairy and every woman was a fairy, "nothin' like a dame."
Similarly, in cricket, in any era you would care to mention, there is nothing like a fine catch to give any match a kick up the backside. That holds true even in the rock 'n roll format of the game and its current gig, the Champions League T20.
You can keep the smashing pumpkins that arch way over the tightly wrapped groupies on the midwicket boundary, as well as the balls of fire that cut an AC/DC zigzag as they clatter through some thunderstruck unfortunate's stumps. Nevermind those jumping jack flashes, give us a catch to build a dream on. Baby, I like it.
'Twas just such a catch that stirred some ziggy stardust into the game between the Highveld Lions and Guyana at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday, bloody Sunday.
In the fifth over, Craig Alexander, a bowler who seems to have muddled the order of his alleged "fast-medium" status, steamed in to deliver his first ball of the match. Alexander's effort spewed wide of off-stump. Ramnaresh Sarwan shaped to drive it square, and he duly connected. But not as squarely as he would have liked, and the fat sound of a thick edge guffawed around the ground.
Then it happened. One moment Jean Symes was awaiting anything, as is the wont of those who patrol the no-man's land of backward point. The next he was presented with the impossibility of catching a ball screaming more than a metre to his right and just as far above his head. A moment after that, Symes did something presumptuous. That's right, the silly bugger tried to take the catch.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Symes making a fool of himself: he didn't. He spearheaded his dive with both hands, one behind the other, straight out of the Jonty Rhodes manual on how to make the impossible possible. He couldn't catch it, surely ... could he?
As it turned out, Symes and the ball were on a collision course, a bespoke pair of vicious vectors. Smack went the ball into the hands. Crash went Symes to earth. Mad went the crowd when it became plain that he had held on to his prize. Sarwan slunk off, stage left, like a scolded sloth as the celebrations soared and then gave way to the Sunday afternoon sleepiness seeping back into the scene.
Not that Alexander's adrenalin would allow him to take a nap. The catch and the audacity of its taking transformed him into a bowler eminently more fast than medium. He zipped through the rest of his four overs at speeds significantly higher than his regular range. It might not sound like a long way from the upper-130s to 148 kph, but it is.
Some said they had seen Alexander hit 150 kph before. Others doubted that. But there was no disputing that his blood was aboil as he roared and ripped at his quarry with unvarnished aggression. Clearly, the magic of the catch was at work.
A less dizzy analysis of this match might argue that it was won and lost by a Guyana outfit that already had one foot and their kit on the plane home, or by Ethan O'Reilly's bristling bowling - which earned him career-best figures of 4 for 27 - or by the unbroken stand of 133 between Alviro Petersen and Richard Cameron, in which 96 runs flew and flowed in fours and sixes.
But this is no time for sober comment. A catch to conjure with isn't taken every other day. When it is, the moment deserves to be savoured as sublimely as possible. Stuck in a moment with you, it really is the sweetest thing.
Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South AfricaFeeds: Telford Vice
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