There may have been rare occasions in the past when England's fielding could be described as a thing of beauty. But they were individual incidents, usually matches, months, years, careers apart. In Adelaide yesterday the team assembled a virtuoso performance choreographed as seamlessly as a Fred Astaire dance routine.
The catalyst was Jonathan Trott's stunning run-out of Simon Katich before the left-handed batsman had faced a ball in the first over of the morning. Trott's only obvious resemblance to Astaire in his pomp is the receding hairline but the way he set himself at square leg to pick up and throw unerringly at one stump had its own peculiar grace.
There followed a catch by Graeme Swann at second slip to dismiss Ricky Ponting which was far from regulation and showed nobody was sleeping at the back.
All day the ground fielding was alert, precise, up to the mark. The throwing was accurate, never wasteful, the keeping of Matt Prior as clean as a whistle.
Towards the end of the Australian innings – which was not long in coming – there followed another superb example of the results of England's hard training. Brad Haddin pushed into short midwicket and set off for a single. Andrew Strauss's throw reached Alastair Cook at short leg and his lightning delivery to Prior saw Xavier Doherty short of his ground. Run out by shuttle.
The throwing from deep was dependable, the constant running down of boundary-bound shots in such heat a tribute to oft-maligned fitness and fielding drills.
Not every day is so impeccable and Richard Halsall, the side's fielding coach, strives for the perfect performance. Jimmy Anderson's dropping of Mike Hussey off his own bowling (a tough, low catchable chance to his left) still leaves him with something to aim for.Reuse content