Ian McMillan: Seagull nearly stole prime catch

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Cricket fans have been using the World Cup as a method of whiling away the hours until the domestic season starts, and as my grandson Thomas is well into his winter net practice at the local school I thought it was time to tell him, and anybody else who’d listen, about the greatest catch ever taken in a cricket match in Yorkshire.

It happened at a ground not far from where you live, in whichever part of the county you happen to be. The away team had one wicket left standing, and the hosts were desperate to get it because it would mean that they would go top of the league. The batsman was proving very hard to shift; he blocked shots, he went for easy singles, he let balls go that perhaps he should have whacked. It was like bowling at a brick wall.

It was the last ball of the last over and it had to count; the sun was going down and casting long shadows over the crease so that the wickets looked like high-rise flats. As often happens in cricket, an entire match turned around the fulcrum of a single moment.

The bowler ran up faster than any bowler has ever run up in the well-documented history of cricket, or at least that’s what it felt like. He unleashed a ball that cracked the sound barrier and several plates that were being prepared for the cricket tea. The batsman, stung into action, swung and hit the ball so hard it almost exploded.

It flew high, high into the early evening air, scattering homing pigeons that were circling before landing on the roof of a nearby loft. It continued to rise, catching on thermals, flying upwards and across like a helium balloon released from a big net for charity.

The home side’s ace fielder began to race across the outfield; he was known for his catching ability and for his safe hands as big as shovels. In all the years he’d played he’d only ever dropped one catch and that was when a stray ball came over the wall as he was having his wedding photos taken outside church.

The ball soared and swooped. The fielder ran past the spectators and out of the ground onto the pavement; he had an uncanny ability to track the ball in the air as he also negotiated his way down the street; there was almost a sticky (literally) moment outside the chip shop when he had to swerve to avoid a man who was coming out of the door with a portion of chips and mushy peas but disaster was averted.

The ball reached the apex of its upward trajectory and hung still for a moment. It was as though time had stopped. The fielder paused, just beside the main road. He had to decide which way the ball was going to fall. An oblivious seagull bounced into the ball and the ball began to fall and the seagull limped away, if you can limp through the air.

The seagull had altered the ball’s trajectory and it began to fall rapidly towards the aforementioned cricket 
tea plates. The fielder ran. The batsman stared. The fielder ran faster and the batsman stared harder. The ball fell like a rapid sunset…

And the fielder caught it!

Greatest catch ever taken in Yorkshire!