Jo Harman picks out a memorable snap of a moment of unexpected genius from James Kirtley.
England’s 2002 ODI tri-series conjured up several enduring images. It was a thriller from start to finish, the hosts playing with uncharacteristic aggression and enterprise for the time as they went toe-to-toe with India and Sri Lanka.
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It made for compelling viewing. Along the way we saw an achingly beautiful century from Sachin at Durham, Ronnie Irani’s first (and only) international five-fer, Nasser’s three-fingered assault on the press box and a pumped up Ganguly tear his shirt off and swing it above his head like a lunatic on the Lord’s balcony after India chased down 326 with two wickets and three balls to spare to win the final – at the time the third-highest total batting second in ODI cricket.
Less memorable was James Kirtley’s contribution to the series. The Sussex seamer played four matches, took three wickets at 70 apiece and proved expensive throughout. But a moment of unexpected genius, which took place just a few metres from where my dad and I were seated in the Edrich Stand, in the second match of the series at Lord’s has always stuck in mind.
India were cruising in pursuit of England’s 271 in the second match of the tri-series at Lord’s before a flurry of wickets – including, bizarrely, and to the complete dismay of the Indian fans around us, Tendulkar lbw Irani 1 – brought the hosts back into the game. Unusually becalmed, Ganguly decided he fancied a piece of Ashley Giles, took two steps down the track and hoicked the ball towards wide mid-on.
The ball was tailing away from Kirtley and appeared to be well out of his reach before he threw himself to his left, taking the catch one-handed, with his weaker hand, centimetres from the turf. His reaction, and the reaction of the spectators around me, was one of complete disbelief.
England went on to narrowly lose the match but it was Kirtley’s grab that stayed with me. Years later, as I recalled the catch to a friend, I sought out evidence to see if it was as sensational as I’d remembered. This image, expertly captured by Getty photographer Tom Shaw, was the only reminder that I needed.