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‘Unexpected genius’ – The glorious Kirtley grab that bemused everyone

James Kirtley
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

At Lord’s in 2002, James Kirtley took a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss India’s Sourav Ganguly – an effort of staggering genius, which was probably the most memorable moment of his England career.

It would probably not be unfair to venture that James Kirtley didn’t enjoy the England career that he’d envisioned. That magical day at Trent Bridge aside when he bowled England to victory over South Africa with a man-of-the-match display (and a six-fer) he was perennially next in line and could never quite nail down his place in the first XI.

Four Test matches, 11 ODIs and one surprising appearance in the 2007 World T20 where his only over was dispatched to all parts by Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist. He probably would have hoped for more of a legacy.

There is one moment that sticks in the mind of every England fan when Kirtley’s name is mentioned though – that catch at Lord’s against India in 2002: a piece of staggering and unexpected genius.

In the second match of the NatWest Series, England had done what England do best: they had thrown away a promising start to post an ultimately average total. Chasing down 272, India set off like a rocket with Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag launching a brutal assault on England’s bowlers. The visitors raced to 109 in 18 overs.

Three quick wickets dragged England back into the match before Kirtley took centre stage in the 28th over.

Ganguly skipped down the pitch to Ashley Giles and sent a flattish drive towards the gap between long-on and mid-wicket. He hit it hard and it looked for all the world like it would land safely and run towards the boundary; Kirtley wasn’t known for his fielding.

He hadn’t given up hope though and just as the ball started to die on him, the 27-year-old pulled out a full-length dive, instinctively stuck out his weaker left hand and grasped the ball inches from the ground to pull off a miraculous catch. Kirtley was pumped, everyone else was somewhat bemused. How on earth had he done that?

Unfortunately for England fans it proved to be their last celebration as Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh saw India home but at least they could console themselves with the fact they had seen one of the greatest catches ever to grace the Home of Cricket.

First published in May 2014

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