January 5 was the fortieth anniversary of the ‘Dyson catch’ as described in the opening passages of Around the Grounds. A moment in time I witnessed first-hand while I was at my school holiday job in the old SCG scoreboard. It’s still one of the most incredible things I’ve seen on the cricket field.
‘Standing about 30 metres in from the fence, the Australian opener found himself tracking the ball more closely than anybody. He back peddled, light footedly scattering a group of seagulls as he went. Realising he was too far out of position to reach the ball in an orthodox manner, he threw himself backwards and slightly sideways, arms and body at full stretch…then at even fuller stretch. Completely airborne, he caught the ball cleanly with both hands then softened his fall with a perfectly executed gymnast’s roll, the catch secure. A combination of relief and disbelief was on his face as he rolled over and lay for a few moments face down on the turf. Then he stood, gathered his cap and ran in to join his ecstatic team mates while the SCG crowd rose in applause. Dyson’s catch would come to be called the ‘catch of the century’ and even all these years later, with all the enormous advances in fielding skills, it stands out as a singularly remarkable combination of judgement, timing and skill of a type unique to the game of cricket.’
An anniversary like this sets you aback – how quickly 40 goes by! As a result and on reflection it’s sad to think that two of the three protagonists involved in the Dyson catch (the batter Sylvester Clarke and the bowler Bruce Yardley) are no longer with us.
Which brings me to the closing pages of Around the Grounds where the Dyson catch is reprised in a setting 1600 kilometres to the south.
In describing how in January 2018 Glenn Maxwell brought up a 90 minute T20 international century against England with a six onto the hill at Blundstone Arena, I write ‘the ball went over the head of the fielder at deep mid-wicket (for a brief moment there had seemed the chance of another Dyson catch).’
Thirty-six years and a lot of distance in between these are the magic moments in sport.
There’s a hill at Blundstone Arena with a scoreboard at the top just like in the days of the SCG as I most fondly recall it. It’s all quiet there now but when the fifth Ashes test starts on Friday what split- second moment of drama might take place right in front of it?