Australia v England, 3rd ODI, Sydney January 19, 2014

Australia fielding magic highlights gulf

Vithushan Ehantharajah at the SCG
From David Warner's run out to catches by Michael Clarke and Daniel Christan, Australia showed why they are among the leaders in the field

David Warner had not even faced a ball before his innings should have been over. He knew it, too - giving up on a single he was never supposed to make, with half the pitch left. Just two balls into Australia's chase, Aaron Finch had punched the ball to Ravi Bopara at cover, who anticipated, picked up and threw, low but wide.

Warner's bonus 70 balls allowed him to take Australia to within 123 runs of victory, with just under 30 overs left. His removal so early would have changed the game.

Earlier in the day, Warner himself had nailed an outrageous direct hit to see off Ian Bell, who was caught ambling between the wickets here for the second match in a row. It was one of a triumvirate of pieces of fielding that served as another marker of the galling gap in quality between the two sides on this tour.

"The Australian way is to lead in the field," Michael Clarke said immediately after the match. And how he led, taking a remarkable one-handed grab when Ben Stokes got down on one knee and swept Xavier Doherty hard and behind square. The ball shot low to Clarke's right but he somehow managed to claim the ball within a whisker of the turf, with his weaker right hand.

Daniel Christian was responsible for the third, as he dived after a leading edge from Eoin Morgan, scooping the ball safely - as confirmed by the television umpire - while almost upside down and vertical. Morgan stood his ground to await confirmation on the catch's cleanliness but he could just as well have stayed there in amazement.

It is one of the game's great truths that a side's fielding is a measure of their confidence. While England's fielders towed the ring's outer limits, Australia were choking, at times wilfully making the 30-yard circle ten short. Where England were meek Australia were hounding and hungry.

As if to provide an exception to prove the rule, Aaron Finch dropped Bell on 14, after the ball was flat-batted straight to him, standing close in at point. Finch's nonchalance upon taking a swirling skier when Chris Jordan tried to pull James Faulkner into Moore Park did little to suggest he was satisfied with the scalp of a No. 10 as redemption. It spoke of a ruthlessness that England have been unable to match, in any discipline.

"Globally, fielding has never been so crisp. Through years of trial and error, as some theories were binned and others became theorems, the skills required for various positions have been honed"

Globally, fielding has never been so crisp. Through years of trial and error, as some theories were binned and others became theorems, the skills required for various positions on the field have been honed. The introduction of Twenty20 has undoubtedly sped up the evolution of fielding, as evidenced by the number of self-assisted boundary catches that are taken nowadays. It seems there is now a correct way of pulling off the extraordinary.

Even in east Africa, cricket development officers working on the border of Uganda and Kenya have noted how modern teachings have allowed athletic kids, with no previous exposure to cricket, to become exceptional fielders, almost overnight.

That's not to say fielding can't or won't evolve further. Just as George Bailey showed in the Ashes series, with his array of volleyball parries from short leg, there's always room for innovation. There was certainly something novel about Australia's Chicago-born fielding coach Mike Young, as he used a baseball bat to send cleanly struck high balls from the middle to the boundary's edge during the mid-innings break.

Young has been around the Australia set-up since 2007, when he initially worked closely with Ricky Ponting and John Buchanan. Since then, he has been involved with various international and domestic sides in one form or another, including a stint with Glamorgan last year, as a specialist fielding coach for their Twenty20 campaign.

Talk to him for 15 minutes on throwing and you will have all you need to know about searing in a flat one from the rope as well as the physiology of the human arm. He's very much in the "learn by doing" camp, a big believer that volume of practice helps perfect throwing mechanics and "arm patterns". Warner was quick to praise the effect of Young - "he tells us to keep it tight" - and Steve Rixon, Australia's assistant coach, who have polished this talented bunch of individuals into an all-seeing, all-stopping force.

The fielding brilliance of Warner, Clarke and Glenn Maxwell, and those not playing here today like Steven Smith and Mitchell Johnson - not forgetting the high standard on show in the Big Bash League - underlines the high standards that Australia are seeking once more. Their encounter with South Africa next month is the meeting of two of best fielding sides in the world.

We are no longer in an era where individuals are vaunted for excelling at specific facets of fielding - Heath Streak's bullet arm, Upul Chandana's freakish reflexes or Jonty Rhodes' ambivalence to the laws of physics. International fielders must be bucket-handed walls, and Australia have some of the deepest and biggest in the game.

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  • Cameron on January 20, 2014, 6:16 GMT

    AISmug & Sifter132: what joyless & sad worlds you both must inhabit. Yeah, the grass did it & Warner is a tool for carrying on too much.

    How about enjoying the moment & celebrating the extraordinary? Warner can field very well & highlighted his skills with this brilliant run out. His comments after the game played it down. Do you really think anyone is going to take him on for a chancy 2nd run any time soon, in any format??

  • Zac on January 20, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    @AlSmug: can you really blame him for showing disbelief? I hardly think that his reaction was over the top, considering what he had just done. Maybe he won't be captain, for numerous other reasons which need not be mentioned, but to call him childish on the back of one celebration which was as jubilant as many I have witnessed from greatly respected cricketers is unnecessary. It's not like he was giving the batsman a send off or doing a Harbhajan (rolling around on the grass), he was just celebrating an unbelievable, and admittedly lucky, throw.

  • M on January 20, 2014, 1:31 GMT

    @AlSmug; We watch a footballer score a goal, run haphazardly with his shirt over his head till he reaches the corner post where he throws a few short arm jabs and then kicks it whilst its down for good measure but we allow that he is celebrating... Warner said about that afterwards that it was a lucky throw and a special feeling when it hit from side one that far out and he felt in the moment he wanted to celebrate a big wicket... Lets allow him his moment albeit a bit showy... at least he didn't try to surf the crowd or run around like a headless chook.

    As for this topic, I don't know that it is that everyone is an exceptional fielder but in days gone by most teams had a couple that were mediocre... the average standard of fielding has lifted, I think Doherty is an average fielder for Aus but in so saying, he isn't THAT bad either... Rankin for Eng at the moment is poor but then India has them too and Morne for SAf wasn't too flash last time I saw him. Its all relative.

  • Will on January 20, 2014, 1:14 GMT

    @AlSmug so it was the grass that picked up the ball and threw down the stumps from well outside the circle? Good to know. It was an incredible piece of fielding, and he deserves to celebrate it.

  • Nathan on January 19, 2014, 22:23 GMT

    @ ScottStevo and Xtrafalgarx, I think the Aussie team were talented 6 months ago but inexperienced. During the England ashes about half of our team had less than 15 test matches to their career. Most players are going to take 20 odd matches to find their feet and make that transition into test cricket.

    Now that we're getting a bit more experience I'm expecting the Aussies to be much more consistent in tests.

    Maybe Holding and Crowe would like to see Australia fall from grace to ease their pain of seeing their countries be at about the same level as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe!

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2014, 22:15 GMT

    @Alsmug could you get over your obsession with Warner and focus on the article? It has nothing to do with captaincy. If you ever in your life did something as spectacular as what he did you'd be forgiven for showing a bit of excitement. Nothing he did was self glorifying it was a cheeky "I can't believe that just happened" moment. I for one am glad I'll never have to watch a game of cricket in the same room as you.

  • Stephen on January 19, 2014, 22:01 GMT

    @AlSmug - What a throw though mate, hitting the wickets side-on from that distance in front of 37,000 at your home ground. You can't imagine the feeling. I could watch that all day.

  • David on January 19, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    @AlSmug - you are the man. No one else seemed to notice the ball clearly changed path a little when it bounced, yet we are treating Dave Warner like his fielding is mana from heaven! It's completely over the top! The fielding from Australia WAS good, but that piece was pure luck. I liked Coulter-Nile's full length dive off the last ball at short fine leg. Amazing athleticism for a big man.

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2014, 20:16 GMT

    I was at the ground and the way the Aussies train is exceptional. They were at it an hour and a half before the game and fielding sharply the whole time. On the other hand, England were lazy and laissez-faire in the warm-ups - the game was won by the Aussies an hour before it started.....

  • Alan on January 19, 2014, 18:59 GMT

    The way Warner carried on after a run out, mind you the outcome of it hitting rhe stumps was in the hands of the bounce of the ball off the grass, well, he carried on like a school girl who just experienced her first kiss. Warner will never be captain ca are aware he has tendencies to wig out on and off field, he has alot of growing up to do

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