It looked easy, but when Mark Waugh is in the slips it usually does. Mark Butcher leaned forward, Glenn McGrath found the edge and, 16 yards back, Waugh gently dipped his body, cupped his hands and, after steadying himself on his right knee, came up smiling. Catch No 157, equalling the world record for a fielder.
The first victim, just over a decade ago in Adelaide, was Michael Atherton, the non-striker yesterday when Butcher was pouched. Since then Waugh, building on his natural talent with hard work, has moved to the top of the pile. Butcher's wicket means Waugh now stands alongside Mark Taylor, his former team-mate, as he did so often on the pitch, he at second slip, his captain at first.
Yesterday Taylor, who watched Waugh draw level from the commentary box, said: "Records are there to be broken and he deserves it. He is, with [the ex-West Indies Test all-rounder] Roger Harper, the best fielder I've seen in any position. You could put him anywhere." Taylor said that both had been educated in the art by Bobby Simpson when they broke into the New South Wales team together. "He was a great slipper [Simpson is ninth on the all-time list] and if you put your hand up to be a slipper with him than meant catches, catches, every day." According to Greg Chappell, who is fourth on the list and also present at Lord's: "Mark makes it look so easy he doesn't get the praise he deserves for some of the brilliant catches he takes."
That was echoed by John Buchanan, the Australia coach, who said: "He's taken some amazing catches and his value to the team is underscored." Buchanan said his team, having sent England in "on a reasonably benign wicket", were "reasonably pleased to get four wickets." He added: "We bowled better than in the first innings at Edgbaston."
That was backed up by his counterpart, Duncan Fletcher. The England coach said: "We batted well. Three of the dismissals were to really good deliveries. Only [Marcus] Trescothick was out to a rash shot." He added: "[Mark] Ramprakash was a vital wicket. We'd have been a lot more comfortable if we were only three down. It will be quite a battle tomorrow. It is important that [Alec] Stewart and [Graeme] Thorpe put on a good partnership.
"Obviously we have got to get to 350, but it is a wicket that has offered something and I hope it will continue that way in the next couple of days." So will Waugh. Today he is likely to move past Taylor. As Buchanan added, ominously: "He'll get plenty more catches in this series. And there's still plenty of time in this match to get a result."Reuse content