One of the abiding memories of the 2011 season came in the Friends Life t20 final at Edgbaston when Matthew Boyce, Leicestershire’s substitute fielder, held four towering catches on the boundary’s edge in an arc between deep square-leg and deep mid-wicket, all off the bowling of spinner Josh Cobb, as their side defeated Somerset by 18 runs to win the competition.
A substitute fielder making four catches is quite a rarity in the professional game, and rarer still at international level. John Bracewell, currently the Gloucestershire coach, once achieved the feat by taking four catches for New Zealand in November 1980 against Australia at Adelaide, with three of his catches coming off the bowling of Ewen Chatfield and one from Lance Cairns. Like the efforts of Boyce in 2011, Bracewell’s fielding helped the Kiwis to a three-wicket win – in the Benson and Hedges World Series.
In the past, many county teams did not have the luxury of taking a twelfth man with them for their away matches, and travelled with just eleven players, plus their scorer. If injury should befall one of their side, they would borrow a fielder from the home team, and if the diagnosis from the medics was sufficiently grim, a replacement would be summoned from back home. However, the home side’s twelfth man would often be in the position of fielding against his own colleagues.
Such a situation affected Gloucestershire in their game at Derby in 1959 when Tom Graveney was injured falling down the stairs at the team’s hotel. With Graveney unable to field in the Derbyshire second innings, Gordon Beet, the Derbyshire twelfth man, was therefore pressed into service having already held a catch early in the home side’s first innings when David Young was briefly off the field. Beet proceeded to add three more catches to his tally, and apparently was given a small monetary reward by Graveney after the match in recognition of his efforts.
Another notable occasion was in July 1919 when Billy Williams, the Yorkshire twelfth man, took four catches when fielding against his own county in their first innings in the match against Leicestershire at Huddersfield. All of Williams’s catches were taken in the slips, with three being held off Alec Skelding’s bowling and the other from John Curtis’s spin.
No doubt when he returned to the Fartown pavilion, some of his hard-nosed colleagues in the professionals’ changing room let the 32-year-old fast bowler know what they thought of his fielding efforts!