In his latest NatWest T20 Blast blog, Matthew Hoggard talks about some staggering catches by his former team-mates, seagulls doubling as fielders, and Ravi Bopara's red-hot form for Essex Eagles.
The Killing Fields
For once the major talking point this week has been some of the astonishing fielding we’ve seen, starting with the unfortunate case of the seagull that denied Ryan Higgins a certain six for Middlesex Panthers at The BrightonandHoveJobs.com County Ground on Friday.
I can remember Jacques Rudolph killing a pigeon five years ago when he was playing for Yorkshire. It made me think of the Rory Bremner commentary when he was asked what was going to happen to the bird and he replied it was going to end up in a pie. Before anyone thinks I’m making light of animal cruelty, I’m not (though I am partial to a decent pie). No cricketer wants to kill or injure a bird, although I reckon Sussex Sharks' Will Beer will be slightly happier to see the pigeon recover than Ryan might have been - given that his delivery went for a two rather than a six!
Cricket’s always been a dangerous game for players, as well as birdlife, and Tim Bresnan took an incredible return catch to dismiss Alex Hales at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
There’s no margin for error with something like that. If you don’t get your fingers up in the right place, a ball travelling at that speed will break them. I was once hit in the throat by Mahendra Singh Dhoni out in India and I was lucky. He absolutely smashed one back at me and it hit me in the side of the neck. It absolutely killed me but in hindsight I was fortunate that it only hit a fleshy part of my throat because if it had hit bone it would have broken it.
The fact is that people break fingers and other bones all the time in cricket. Fielding is instinctive and if you can’t get your hands to the ball you’ll try to get something - anything else - in the way rather than think about the danger, meaning you could get a ball smacking you in the shin, which, let me tell you, is sheer bloody agony.
— NatWest T20 Blast (@NatWestT20Blast) July 2, 2014
Colly's no wally
It’s not an accident that Paul Collingwood remains one of the best fielders in the game. You may have seen the tumbling catch he took at the Emirates Durham ICG to get rid of Gareth Cross, where he dived full length and grabbed a wet, greasy ball.
Colly makes that look natural. It isn’t. It takes special skill, but Colly's like the great Jonty Rhodes in that he spends hours each week working on his fielding and that catch showed exactly why. It wasn’t luck; it was a reward for the dedication he’s shown all through his career. He's one of the best professionals I played with and he's earned every bit of success through sheer hard work.
As spectacular as that catch was, it was still nothing compared to the trick Adam Lyth and Aaron Finch repeated for Yorkshire Vikings against Leicestershire Foxes last night.
As a cricketer you dream of producing one-handed catches on the boundary, but for them to do that for the second time in a month is incredible.
It isn’t even something that’s easy to recreate in training because it’s so difficult to actually hit a ball so that it dips exactly two feet over the rope and 99 times out of a hundred a shot like that will go for six.
You need an absolutely perfect ball and then fantastic athleticism and anticipation. For long-on and long-off to have the foresight to be able to do that is one thing. For one of them to then be able to catch and throw a ball back to the other in mid-air is nearly superhuman. Adam Lyth should stick a cape on next week.
Bopara flying high for the Eagles
The game I’m most looking forward to this week is the sell-out at the Essex County Ground between Essex Eagles and Surrey, although as a bowler it’s one you wouldn’t mind missing out. You've got short boundaries, a dry wicket and some of the best batting talent in the competition. On one side there’s Jesse Ryder, Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate and on the other Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kevin Pietersen and Jason Roy, meaning it’s likely to be raining sixes.
For me, Ravi could be the key player. Things can go two ways after you get dropped from the Test side. You can sulk or you can fight. When I was dropped I had mixed feelings because I wasn’t in a good mental state but I wanted to fight to get my place back. I thought there’s no way I’m giving it up easily and if you don’t fight it’s a worrying sign.
Ravi has reacted by becoming one of the best and most stylish batters we’ve got in this country. He’s been brilliant recently. He’s been in a rich vein of form and his qualities as a finisher could be crucial to getting Essex over the line on Friday night.
Hoggy's Top Three
My top performers of last week are:
1. Adam Lyth (Yorkshire Vikings). Quite simply he produced one of the greatest pieces of fielding I've ever seen. World-class. And a nod to Aaron Finch too. Big Aaron's a decent-sized unit but that one-handed grab was like Gordon Banks.
2. Luke Fletcher (Nottinghamshire Outlaws). Talking of big units, Luke put in a monstrous performance with the ball for Notts Outlaws last week. Every single yorker was spot on. When you combine deadly accuracy with his height and power, it's a nightmare for batsmen.
3. Jason Roy (Surrey). I talked the Surrey opener up a couple of weeks ago and he showed why against Hampshire last Friday. Brutal hitting. No one queues up to bowl against him on this form.