Was Fran Wilson’s horizontal diving catch the perfect horizontal diving catch?

Fran Wilson diving catch (via Sky Sports video)

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.

Horizontality

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.

50/50

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.

20/25

Form

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.

15/25

Verdict

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.


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24 Appeals

  1. Two that spring immediately to mind:
    Ramprakash: 25-25-10 = 60
    Dalrymple: 40-20-25 = 85
    First instinct was that Dalrymple’s was better than Wilson’s but the key thing is that he doesn’t hit the horizontal until fractionally after the ball is in his hand. It’s a tiny issue in some ways, but we are looking at horizontal catches.
    Ramprakash’s is a cracking catch but, in reality, barely a diving horizontal catch at all.

    • King Cricket

      June 14, 2019 at 9:44 am

      The Dalrymple one makes us wonder whether bonus points should be awarded for ‘distance travelled while airborne’. Maybe it’s the camera angle, but feels like Wilson flew further.

  2. In the summer of 1978, I took the following photograph of a horizontal catch, at school. I was mighty proud of it at the time:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/ianlharris/8527836294

    I note that the photograph shows a one-handed catch but the legs-akimbo aspect looks eerily similar to the Fran Wilson catch.

    • King Cricket

      June 14, 2019 at 9:58 am

      An extremely fine photo, but hard to say from that evidence alone whether it was a horizontal diving catch or a keeling over sideways catch.

      • Look at the hair, KC – what more evidence do you need?

        Hair cannot do that when keeling over sideways – hair does that when horizontally diving.

        Laws of physics, KC, laws of physics.

    • Great action photo, Ged, but I think a prerequisite here for inclusion in KC’s analysis (more science!) is actually being ‘in the air’. To me, it looks like the fielder in your photo is supporting his entire bodyweight through his right elbow touching the ground. Possibly the whole the whole thing has been ‘posed’.

  3. In the summer of 1983, I executed a horizontal catch myself – it was my one useful contribution to the whole match. Sadly, there is no visual evidence of the catch but in my mind I achieved more than Fran’s 85 – one-handed (left-hand at that).

    I have Ogblogged the whole event – the most amusing element of which is the reason I ended up being selected to play:

    http://ianlouisharris.com/1983/06/21/my-thanks-for-coming-tfc-keele-festival-week-match-21-june-1983/

    Back then, beer matches involved plenty of beer.

  4. New game – take a drink every time Alastair Cook says ‘To be brutally honest’ on TMS.

    Said drink needn’t be alcoholic.

    • King Cricket

      June 14, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      Probably best if it’s not.

    • More irritating even than Alastair Cook’s verbal ticks is the insistence of several commentators (TMS and Sky) to refer to Andre Russell as “Dre Russ”, inferring that said commentators are young and/or in with the in crowd, which they are not.

      The worst offenders are all named Michael – Vaughan, Slater and Atherton – all of whom, especially the latter, should know better. It just makes them sound pathetic, don’t you think, Kay Cee?

      • Dear G-man,

        I resent this new-but-actually-old-fangled naming convention.

        Yours sincerely,

        Bee-Oh

      • Yo Bruvs?
        Speaking of offensive Michaels, do you have to put up with ‘Clarkey’ on commentary in the UK? I have resorted to the old ‘Allo ‘Allo cheese-in-the-ears trick.
        Eee (or should that be Ehh?)

      • King Cricket

        June 16, 2019 at 8:02 am

        Yeah, he’s been popping up like that guy no-one likes who drinks too much coffee and who has far too much to say. The man’s hard work.

      • Called Michael you say?
        Drinks too much coffee?
        Unpopular
        Too much to say

        I’m just gonna pretend it’s not me you’re talking about here…

  5. Fran Wilson is an anagram of Flown Airs. This is almost relevant but meaningless on second inspection.

  6. Ok, a few questions…

    How did the catching cradle work? Do you land on that? If so, how was that better than say, a mattress? The amazon post gave me no insight.

    Perhaps it was Jonty that spurred this aspiration?

    What year were you born, KC, if i may be so curious? I know you’re the King, and of Cricket at that, but when was the first physical manifestation of your benevolence?

    As an aside, I loved the forward defensive even as a child. It just told me I could bat the next ball, and told the bowler that was no good.

    • Or maybe, it was Gus Logie!

    • King Cricket

      June 15, 2019 at 6:49 am

      You throw the ball into the catching cradle and it comes out the opposite end at a not wholly predictable angle. You need two people.

      We were born in 78 if we absolutely have to answer.

      • Perhaps you are a reincarnation of the horizontal catching dude in my 1978 photo, KC.

      • King Cricket

        June 15, 2019 at 9:22 am

        He died in the taking of the catch?

      • Who knows, KC?

        Like any half-decent photo-journalist in a theatre of war, I was merely trying to get the very best images while staying emotionally and practically detached from the dangerous action.

      • KC did not specify the century of his birth.

        In other news: The Manchester Originals. Discuss.

      • “Sportsmail revealed that the Oval set-up [Kent/Surrey hybrid] had rejected four names suggested to them by brand consultancy firm Futurebrand: London Fuse, London Rebels, London Union and London X. Discussions about the name are ongoing.”

        I think that was the most sensible move out of all of them. What idiot accepted “Leeds Superchargers”?

  7. Andrew Strauss to catch gilchrist at second slip was pretty special… any thoughts on this one? 2005 series.

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