A good catch or a direct hit can be decisive in a contest but can break careers too as Australia’s Callum Ferguson found out in the Hobart Test against South Africa in 2016-17.
And if it’s the 12th man who does the damage, it can be painful for the other team.
Ricky Ponting kept abusing Duncan Fletcher on his way back to the dressing room at Trent Bridge after having been run out by Gary Pratt, a famous moment in the 2005 Ashes series.
Here are 10 moments or contests involving substitute fielders that stand out:
1.Nadeem Khan: His direct hit sparked unrest in the stands at the Eden Gardens, and compelled the authorities to conclude the much-hyped India-Pakistan Test without spectators. The reason? Sachin Tendulkar was run out in a seemingly dubious way.
It was the second innings, on Day Four. Tendulkar was comfortably coming back for his third run after flicking Wasim Akram to deep midwicket. Nadeem’s throw from the deep was accurate; it hit the stumps. Tendulkar would have made it, however, had Shoaib Akhtar, who came drifting along from mid-off, not been in his way as he entered home stretch to complete the third run.
Tendulkar’s attention was on the throw, and he ran into Akhtar. The bat hadn’t been grounded when the ball hit the stumps. The crowd at Eden Gardens made their displeasure felt by throwing bottles on the ground. The match resumed after a delay and the Indian innings kept tumbling.
The crowd was eventually evicted on the fifth day as Pakistan went on to win the Asian Test Championship contest by 46 runs.
Nadeem, the brother of former Pakistan wicketkeeper Moin Khan, played just one Test in his career – another famous one against India, in Chennai, also in 1999.
2. Gary Pratt: At Trent Bridge in August 2005, on display was a mighty Australian team full of accomplished match-winners and it wouldn’t have been pleasing for Ricky Ponting & Co. to be made to follow on by a less-heralded English side.
Having to do a lot of catch up in the second innings, Ponting had settled down for a long innings when Damien Martyn tapped a ball to cover. Martin and Ponting set off for a sharp single, but the fielder – 12th man Pratt – threw accurately to the strikers’ end to catch Ponting short.
Ponting left fuming; he directed some abuses to England coach Duncan Fletcher as he walked back. Australia made a fight of it, though, eventually going down by three wickets.
3. Ravindra Jadeja: Jadeja is an excellent all-rounder and an asset as a substitute fielder for any side. In the 2019 World Cup, he took a tumbling catch to end the innings of the rampaging Jason Roy at Edgbaston.
Roy drove Kuldeep Yadav down the ground; the ball wasn’t fiercely struck, so it was about to land when Jadeja, positioned at long-on, came swooping down on it and plucked a superb catch.
This gave India its first breakthrough of the innings, in the 23rd over. England won by 31 runs and went on to clinch the title.
4. 2019 World Cup final: There were as many as three catches held by substitute fielders in the memorable final at Lord’s. England’s James Vince claimed two of those, and Tim Southee – yes, he wasn’t part of New Zealand playing XI – one of them.
5. Gursharan Singh: Before he played the first and only Test of his career, the Punjab batsman had a memorable outing in a Test as a substitute fielder. This was the third Test between India and West Indies in Ahmedabad in 1983. Gursharan took four catches in that contest, till date the most by a substitute in a Test match.
Younis Khan, Virender Sehwag, and Jackson Bird also took four catches in a Test, later.
6. Younis Khan: Against Bangladesh in Multan in 2001, Pakistan’s Younis Khan took four catches as a substitute, all off the bowling of leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.
7. Dane Vilas: This was Callum Ferguson’s debut Test, the second Australia-South Africa Test in Hobart, in November 2016. Batting first, Australia was struggling at 16 for 4 when Ferguson, batting on 2, defended a short delivery from Kyle Abbott behind point; Dane Vilas retrieved the ball and threw it accurately at the strikers’ end to catch Ferguson short of his crease. The decision to come back for the second run was fatal; Ferguson’s dive couldn’t save him.
His brother, in the stands, walked off in disgust.
Vilas had played six Tests before this game, and he has yet to add to that tally. Four of the Tests he played in were in South Africa's India tour in 2015.
8. Peter Handscomb: Handscomb, the Australia batsman, came on as a 12th man and took a superb diving catch to help dismiss England’s Dawid Malan for 140, in the Perth Test of December 2017.
Nathan Lyon’s delivery caught the edge of Malan’s bat and the ball ballooned to the vacant point region, where Handscomb came running in and dived to take the catch.
9. Scott Elstone: England’s Elstone played just 14 first-class matches in his career, and although he didn’t feature as a player, the Trent Bridge Test against India in 2011 would memorable for him. Then only 21, Elstone took two catches, to dismiss Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, and dropped one, in the second innings. England won by 319 runs.
10. Virender Sehwag: In a Test against Zimbabwe in Nagpur, in February, 2002, India's Virender Sehwag took four catches as a substitute fielder - two off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh, and one each off Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath. India won that match by an innings and 101 runs.
How many substitute fielders have taken three or more catches in a Test? Here’s the list:
4: Gursharan Singh (India), Younis Khan (Pakistan), Virender Sehwag (India), Jackson Bird (Australia);
3: Derek Sealy (West Indies), Willie Rodriguez (West Indies), Yajurvindra Singh (India), Haroon Rasheed (Pakistan); Mark Greatbach (New Zealand), W. V. Raman (India), V. V. S. Laxman (India), Marlon Samuels (West Indies), Mashrafe Mortaza (Bangladesh), and Shaun Marsh (Australia).
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