Catches may win matches but it’s often the drops that linger the longest. Jeff Thomas takes a look at some of the more infamous buttery-fingered fails.
10) Flintoff Drops Flintoff
England v West Indies, Edgbaston 2004
Such was Freddie’s supreme control during his career-best 167, he even found time to pick out his old man in the crowd with an almighty clump over mid wicket. Sadly for Flintoff Snr, a stalwart of Whittingham and Goosnargh 3rd XI, the chance was shelled and the family ribbing commenced: “I see my dad rise from his seat, big smile on his face, his nickname’s ‘Colin Big Hands’, but in front of everyone he drops it. More embarrassing than that, trying to catch the rebound it spills out of his hands and into Michael Vaughan’s mum’s lap, so he’s there, head buried between her legs. Not a good day for my dad that.”
9) Mark Waugh’s London Bus Syndrome
Australia v Pakistan, Colombo 2002
With 181 Test match catches to his name, Mark Waugh is rightly considered to be one of the greatest slip snafflers of all time. So an air of utter disbelief descended on Colombo in 2002 when Waugh dropped three sitters on the same day as Australia sought victory over Pakistan. The misses did not cost his team – Australia went on to win the match – but with reflexes waning it was a stark signal that time may had finally caught up with ‘Junior’ and the baggy green was worn only twice more before he called time on his illustrious Test career.
8) Graham Thorpe ‘Drops The Ashes’
England v Australia, Headingley 1997
During the Nineties it was rare for an Ashes series to still be alive come the fourth Test, but at that stage in ’97, England and the old enemy were surprisingly locked together at one apiece. Gloucester debutant Mike Smith was chucked the ball at a critical point with Australia rocking on 50-4 in reply to England’s meagre 172. In his second over Smith found the edge of Matthew Elliott’s blade to create the simplest of chances for Graham Thorpe at slip but somehow the Surrey man’s margarine digits couldn’t hold on. Elliott went on to make 199 and England lost by an innings. When Thorpe apologised to his skipper, Athers reportedly recycled Gubby Allen’s line to Walter Robbins after the latter had dropped Bradman in 1936-37. “Don’t worry Thorpey, you’ve only cost us the Ashes.” Smith remained wicketless and was never picked again.
7) Ashley Giles Drops The Punt
Australia v England, Adelaide 2006
Duncan Fletcher’s obsession with all things ‘multi-dimensional’ was no doubt central to Gilo getting the nod over everyone’s favourite flaky left-armer, Monty P, at the start of the 2006/07 Ashes. So irony loomed large at deep square leg, where the ‘King of Spain’ let slip a relatively simple chance that would have seen Ricky Ponting depart for 35 and reduce the Aussies to 78-4 in reply to England’s mammoth 551-6 declared. Ponting cashed in to the tune of 145 helping Australia pass 500 before the Aussies skittled England on the final morning to set up the most unlikely – and sickening – of victories. Turning points don’t get much bigger.
6) Chris Scott’s Most Expensive Drop in History
Warwickshire v Durham, Edgbaston 1994
“I suppose he’ll get a hundred now,” was the apparent reaction of Durham’s journeyman keeper Chris Scott after putting down a straightforward catch to remove Brian Lara for just 18. With Lara going into the match having recorded six tons in seven first-class innings Scott’s assumption was entirely understandable. Unfortunately for Scott and Durham, his prediction proved to be only a fifth accurate, Lara went on to plunder another 483 runs to record the highest ever first-class score, 501*.
5) Ian Healy And The Miracle of Bridgetown
West Indies v Australia, Bridgetown 1999
Five years later, Ian Healy’s drop of Lara may not have cost 483 runs, in fact the great man added only another six, but it was a much more significant blunder. Few gave the Windies a hope at the start of day five, especially when 85-3 soon became 105-5 in search of 308. But Lara refused to conform to the script and adlibbed his way to a breathtaking century. But with seven runs needed and the West Indies eight down, Australia’s get out of jail card appeared to have arrived when Lara guided one straight to the great Healy’s left mitt. A young Healy would have gone with two hands and taken with ease, the leaden-footed version merely palmed to the floor. The ninth wicket fell soon after but crucially Lara was still at the crease to hit the winning runs and secure a great one-wicket victory. A chap named Gilchrist did most of the keeping thereafter.
While we’re at it, the highlights of Lara’s classic knock are well worth a watch:
4) Herschelle Gibbs “Drops The World Cup”
South Africa v Australia, Headingley, 1999
When Steve Waugh came to the crease in the final match of the Super Sixes (a contest the Aussies had to win to progress) his team were in more than a spot of bother on 48-3 in pursuit of South Africa’s imposing 271. A Herschelle Gibbs ton provided the backbone of that innings and his day should have got even better when Waugh clipped the simplest of chances to him at mid wicket. Gibbs gleefully accepted the present only to let the ball squirm from his grip as he attempted to hurl the ball skywards in celebration. Steve Waugh later denied the famous quip which apparently followed, but the sentiment if not the words were entirely accurate – he went on to make 120 from 110 balls and Australia secured victory with two deliveries remaining and inevitably went on to lift the trophy.
3) Gatt Loses His Bearings
India v England, Chennai 1993
While Mike Gatting’s insatiable appetite may be legendary, one thing he inexplicably failed to gobble up during England’s disastrous 1992/93 tour of India was perhaps the most simple chance in the history of Test cricket. When Ian Salisbury ripped one from the Chennai rough into the glove of Kiran More, the ball could not possibly have taken a slower, more gentle trajectory toward the welcoming hands of Gatting at silly point. Astonishingly, with umpire RS Rathore’s finger already raised, Gatting conspired to reject the gift and the cherry laid to rest in front of a giggling Graeme Hick at slip. They say seeing is believing yet no matter how many times you view it on YouTube, you simply won’t.
2) Kiran More Drops The Daddy
England v India, Lord’s 1990
Graham Gooch was on just 36 when Sanjeev Sharma nicked him off to provide the most regulation of caught behinds for Kiran More. “Oh… dear” was Richie Benaud’s simple but prophetic reaction to the Teflon-gloved spillage. Gooch went on to complete 333. More reflects: “I clearly remember it was a straightforward catch, except in England the ball wobbles a bit in the air after it passes the bat and that’s a test for a keeper. I failed the test on that occasion.”
1) Shane Warne Grasses ‘The Ego’
England v Australia, The Oval 2005
Having single-handedly kept Australia in the 2005 series with his 40 wickets at 19.92 and 249 runs at 27.66, it was cruel of the London crowd to tuck into Shane Warne with quite such relish. That said, chants of “Warnie’s dropped the Ashes”, weren’t too far off the money. England were wobbling, three down with a lead of just 95 when a pumped up Brett Lee found Kevin Pietersen’s outside edge. Warne hadn’t dropped a thing all summer but on this day of days the simple chance was spurned. KP took full advantage, hitting Warne for a pair of sixes in the very next over en route to a maiden Test century that would set off a national knees-up taking in booze, buses and Downing Street shrub action.
And why not treat yourself to a few highlights from the knock that ensued?