Speaking on Sky Sports Cricket, Michael Atherton questioned whether the spacing between the slips could be contributing to England’s slip catching woes in Test cricket this summer.
The suggestion came after James Anderson had found Abid Ali’s edge twice in an over on the third afternoon of the first England-Pakistan Test, only to survive each time. On the second occasion he was dropped by Ben Stokes, normally rated as one of England’s best fielders, but who, according to CricViz, drops more catches than the average slip fielder.
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 7, 2020
Stokes was at second slip but dove to his left and spilled what would have been a simple catch for Joe Root at first slip, and Atherton pointed out that the pair being two close could have contributed to the chance being spurned.
“Stokes coming across Root and he certainly made the ground but it was going to Root who was just going to his right,” he said. “And then Stokes came across in front of him, it’s a beautiful catching height. It’s probably more Root’s catch than Stokes’, although having got there he’ll feel he should have taken it.”
“You have to argue whether England’s slips are too narrow here, because this is basically going straight to Root, and Stokes is not diving there really. The way that Root was going to catch that ball, you’d think Stokes would be diving at full stretch so I’d argue they’re a bit narrow and can space out a bit further than that.”
While there was no catch put down on the first catch that over, Atherton argued that had Root been employing a more orthodox field, the chance would have been a simple one.
“You often see England start with this field where they have a couple of slips and a kind of fourth or fifth slip,” he said. “They very rarely have these days what you would call an orthodox gully. I reckon that ball has gone in the air just on an orthodox gully line, the kind of position you usually see as standard in a Test match. Pope’s on that line but he’s back saving one really.”