As a child, our overwhelming cricket obsession was diving catches. We used to spend hours on the slip catch cradle at our local club trying to execute The Perfect Horizontal Diving Catch. It seemed a lot more fun than doing forward defensives in the nets.
Our mate would throw the ball so it went nowhere near us and we’d dive. Sometimes they’d stick, sometimes they wouldn’t, but even with a gazillion attempts, no catch was ever quite perfect.
We’ve no real idea where this idea came from. We can’t recall a particular catch that spurred our enthusiasm. This was the late Eighties, early Nineties – the era of Mike Gatting and past-his-best Beefy – so a perfect horizontal diving catch was very much a theoretical thing.
Yesterday, against the West Indies, Fran Wilson went pretty close. Here’s a video.
We need to assess this properly.
To be absolutely 100 per cent clear, we are looking for perfection here, so Wilson is being judged to the highest of standards.
It is also important to note that this is a horizontal diving catch and as such it is judged by completely different criteria to Ben Stokes’ backhand leap or Jason Roy’s boundary diagonalism. The horizontal diving catch is a category all of its own.
This is the main criterion, which means it’s worth double points. It’s a very simple question: did the fielder fly horizontally in taking the catch?
Let’s take a look at the image up top again.
It’s clear from this that not only did Fran Wilson fly horizontally, she actually arced through the air and speared into the ground like a fucking arrow.
Blisteringness of the shot
One of the main reasons why the horizontal diving catch is such a rare and wonderful thing is because so much of it is outside the fielder’s control.
We had 20 million attempts at achieving the perfect diving catch on the old slip catching cradle and for at least 18 million of those the ball didn’t arrive where it needed to. Either it was too high, too low, too wide, too near or simply too slow.
Fran Wilson got just the one attempt at the perfect horizontal diving catch and while many things were in her favour, we can’t say it was an absolute laser of a drive. It was good, it was moving quickly, but it was maybe ever-so-slightly sliced. It looped just a touch.
Seems harsh to mark Wilson down for this, but it’s the nature of the beast.
Okay, we have one definite issue with how this catch was taken and one element we’re really not sure about.
The first issue is the legs.
There’s no need to debate this. We all know we’re looking for better aerodynamics than this.
The second (possible) issue is the hands. We can’t decide whether taking the catch two-handed is a good or a bad thing.
The symmetry is good and it feels fundamentally more aero. It’s also a very satisfyingly comprehensive way of taking a catch that really doesn’t feel like it should be taken at all.
But then surely the whole point of the perfect horizontal diving catch is that it’s at the exact outer extreme of what could possibly have been caught?
Ask yourself this: if you’re flying full length, at full stretch, what is the most distant patch of air from which you could possibly grasp a cricket ball? It’s not this one, is it? It’s one a few inches further on, one-handed.
We’re marking her down. We’re thinking maybe five points for the legs and five points for two-handed. That seems fair.
Fran Wilson’s horizontal diving catch scores 85 when measured against an entirely theoretical Perfect Horizontal Diving Catch.
That it is a pretty extraordinary score.