Fielding in a multi-day match is different from fielding in any other type of single-day match, whether that match lasts for a full day or not. You may have to do it all day – certainly, you have to prepare for it as though you will have to – and not have a ball come to you, no chance to show how good your processes are. They must be spot on, every ball for three sessions on such days, even if the world will never know that they were. For someone who regularly faces this challenge, it is not easy.
And a female professional player does not face this challenge regularly. Never in the history of Women’s cricket have Test matches been played so rarely as right now, and it’s not as if multi-day matches played at domestic level. It changes how such Test matches are played – it could hardly be otherwise. To make such an observation is not to excuse any mistakes which should not occur, it is to help place such mistakes in their proper context. One such mistake yesterday was Heather Knight’s dropped catch.
Kirstie Gordon was bowling to Meg Lanning. The first session was about ten minutes from its close. Knight was fielding at short cover. Australian aggression had peaked with Alyssa Healy. Now she was out and Ellyse Perry was in, at the non-striker’s end as Gordon looked to add another player to her one Test wicket of Healy. Meg Lanning wasn’t looking as comfortable against the left-arm spin. The odd ball would beat the edge of the bat – straight balls would miss the inside edge, turning balls would miss the outside edge. Such a challenge, and such close calls, can cause a batter to go at the wrong ball with hard hands and cause a catching opportunity. Knight couldn’t have placed herself better for the catch, she trains hard for that sort of catch, taking that sort of catch is her job, and she dropped it.
She should have caught it. It was a sitter. And she is not the type to make excuses for herself. Also, England could have gone on to have any sort of day from that point on, even if the long day in the field without much reward was, in broad terms, the most predictable result, and one England could least afford as they need 20 wickets and rain is forecast. To pretend, however, that such mistakes happen in a vacuum, that a dropped catch is just a dropped catch, without making the aforementioned points of difference between fielding in a multi-day match to fielding in a single-day match, would be a mistake. Heather Knight is one of England’s best cricketers. More than her predecessors, being a cricketer is her job. She has had to wait longer than that for her first catch in an innings before. Yet the point is that this is one of the few innings she fields in which could have set a new record – it has been her job for a greater percentage of her career than her predecessors as English captain, but three sessions in the field has been less a part of her cricket than it was part of theirs.
It was something for us to ponder, and her and her teammates to ignore, as the walls closed in.