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Cricket's costliest dropped catches: Mujeeb gives Herschelle, Warnie, Kohli, Boult and Lara’s 501 victim a run for their money

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9th November, 2023
23

If you think you are having a bad day, spare a thought for Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman after he put down what will be remembered as one of the costliest dropped catches in cricket history.

And it was a sitter. 

Mujeeb was fielding at short fine leg in the 22nd over of Australia’s run-chase in Mumbai when he somehow fumbled the most straightforward of catches after Glenn Maxwell served up a sweep shot directly to where he was standing.

The Aussies were in dire straits and should have slumped to 8-113, well short of the victory target of 292, and the match would have been as good as over.

Afghanistan would have produced their first win over Australia and leapt into fourth spot on the table heading into the final match of the group stage.

MUMBAI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 07: Mujeeb ur Rahman of Afghanistan drops a catch chance from the bat of Glenn Maxwell of Australia during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 between Australia and Afghanistan at Wankhede Stadium on November 07, 2023 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Mujeeb ur Rahman drops an easy catch off Glenn Maxwell. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

But the missed chance will now haunt Mujeeb for the rest of his career, and longer, after Maxwell unleashed a breathtaking 201 not out to guide Australia to an improbable three-wicket win. 

To rub further salt into Mujeeb’s wounds, he bowled the last over as Maxwell belted him for 22 in four balls to bring up his double ton simultaneously with the winning runs. 

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Where does it stand on the costliest dropped catches in cricket history? 

Here are some of the most memorable/forgettable of all time.

Here are the candidates – let us know in the comments which one you think is the best.

2019 – Trent Boult, New Zealand vs England: Technically it wasn’t a dropped catch as Boult caught Ben Stokes on the mid-wicket boundary but stepped on the rope with England seven down in the 48th over, still needing 23 more runs to win the World Cup final. 

Boult flung the ball into a teammate but it was too late as he’d already taken it over the boundary to give Stokes a reprieve and England went on to force a tie, a Super Over and “win” the trophy on a countback.

1999 – Herschelle Gibbs, South Africa vs Australia: Steve Waugh says he wasn’t quick thinking enough to come up with the line attributed to him of “you’ve just dropped the World Cup” but it’s a great story anyway. Gibbs claimed a simple catch at a crucial stage of their Super Six match but lost the ball as he started celebrating with the Aussies in strife at 3-48. Waugh went on to club a ton, Australia then eliminated the Proteas in a thrilling semi-final and Waugh certainly did not drop the World Cup when he was presented with the trophy after they belted Pakistan in the final.

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1877 – Thomas Armitage, England vs Australia: The original sin when it comes to dropped catches in international cricket. Armitage spilled a chance off Charles Bannerman when he was on 10 in the very first Test at the MCG. The home side’s opener piled on 165 of the 245 total as the colonials went on to win by 45 runs.

2014 – New Zealand vs India: Brendon McCullum offered up a chance to Virat Kohli in the second Test at Wellington but the Indian close-in fielder fumbled the chance. McCullum was on nine and if the chance was taken, the Kiwis were facing an innings defeat. He then blasted a triple century, combining with BJ Watling (124) for a 352-run partnership and a 179-run stand with debutant Jimmy Neesham (137 not out) before McCullum was out for 302, helping New Zealand not only avoid defeat but nearly pull off a remarkable comeback win. 

1990 – Kiran More, India v England: The Indian keeper put down a straightforward chance off Graham Gooch when the England opener was on 36. He then went on to bludgeon another 297 in his imperious 333 as England romped to a 247-run triumph to record the only win of the series.

2005 – Shane Warne, Australia v England: Great mates before the Ashes, they were intense rivals on the field. In the final Test, Australia needed to win to force a draw and retain the urn but with the home side in a precarious position in their second innings and Kevin Pietersen on 15, Warne put down a chance in the slips and the English batter made the most of the let-off to craft a majestic 158 to stave off any chance Australia had of holding onto the Ashes.

2014 – Thisara Perera, Sri Lanka v India: Rohit Sharma set his world record ODI score of 264 with a blistering knock that was aided by a slice of luck early on. Perera put him down on four after being presented with an easy chance for what will likely be the most costly fumble in ODI cricket for many years to come.

1937 – Walter Robins, England v Australia: After winning the first two matches, England had a chance to possibly wrap up the Ashes at the third Test in Melbourne when the Aussies were in a spot of bother at 5-97 in their second innings. When Walter Robins put down a chance off Sir Donald Bradman at cover, English skipper Gubby Allen joked “Well done Walter, you’ve cost us a Test series.” The Don ended up making 270 and Australia not only won the match but became the only side in Ashes history to win a series after losing the first two matches.

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2019 – Marcus Harris, Australia v England: Ben Stokes was blasting the Aussie bowlers everywhere on his way to winning the Miracle at Headingly when he skied a chance to the boundary with 17 runs to reach the target. Harris ran forward and could have sealed an Ashes series win if he’d held the chance but as he later explained: “I actually saw it alright and it went straight in my hand, and I couldn’t have got it any better, but as soon as I hit the ground it just exploded out.”

1997 – Graham Thorpe, England v Australia: With the series locked at 1-1 in the fourth Test and the Aussies teetering at 4-50 in reply to England’s 172, debutant seamer Mike Smith found the edge of Matthew Elliott’s bat and the ball travelled straight to Graham Thorpe in the slips. And he dropped the regulation chance. Elliott made them pay by stroking 199 to lead Australia to an innings victory as they kept possession of cricket’s most famous little urn. England captain Mike Atherton reportedly said “Don’t worry Thorpey, you’ve only cost us the Ashes”, which was probably true. Smith didn’t get a wicket in what turned out to be the only innings he bowled in his Test career.

2015 – Marlon Samuels, West Indies v New Zealand: On just the third ball of the World Cup quarter-final at Wellington, in-form opener Martin Guptill spooned a catch to Samuels at square leg but he made a meal of it. Guptill then feasted on the Windies bowlers to carve out an unbeaten 237 to propel NZ to a win by 143 runs.

1994 – Chris Scott, Durham vs Warwickshire: Brian Lara, in career-best form, nicked one behind on 18 but Scott, the Durham keeper, couldn’t hold onto the chance and legend has it, uttered to the slip cordon, “he’ll probably go on and make a hundred now”. He did so five times over to record an unbeaten 501, the highest score in first-class cricket history, a record that still stands to this day.

2006 – Ashley Giles, England v Australia: The Poms could have squared the Ashes in Adelaide and averted their disastrous collapse if Giles had held onto a chance from Ricky Ponting on 35 when the Aussies were 3–65, nearly 500 runs in arrears on the first innings. Ponting converted the opportunity into a superb 142 and Australia went on to win the match and sweep the series.

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1999 – Ian Healy, Australia vs West Indies: With Brian Lara on the verge of leading the Windies to a remarkable fightback win in Barbados, a nick to Healy with seven runs remaining could have delivered Australia the victory with only Courtney Walsh left in the sheds. But the veteran keeper was slow to react and dropped it in his outstretched left glove and Lara guided his side to what turned out to be a famous one-wicket win.

1998 – Saeed Anwar, Pakistan v Australia: Mark Taylor wrote his name into the history books when he equalled Sir Donald Bradman’s Australian record with an unbeaten 334 at Peshawar. Anwar dropped the opposing skipper twice, on 18 and 27, off Mushtaq Ahmed to consign his side to two long days in the field as Australia amassed 4-599.

1934 – Ben Barnett, Australia v England: It’s a missed chance rather than a dropped catch but worth a mention. In the fourth and final Test his debut series, the Victorian keeper failed to grasp a stumping opportunity with Len Hutton well out of his ground on 39 to Chuck Fleetwood-Smith. The English batter then proceeded to peel off a world record score of 364 as the home side won with an innings to spare to draw the Ashes series. And poor old Barnett never played for his country again.

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