England won a rain-hit match, deservingly and convincingly so, against India in the first T20I in Northampton on Saturday. The player of the match without a doubt was Nat Sciver, who continued her dream batting form to score the joint fastest T20I half century by an Englishwoman.

But all the talk at the end of the night was about a catch by India’s Harleen Deol. A diving effort at the long off boundary to dismiss Amy Jones broke social media and had the Indian cricketer trending overnight.

Jones, playing a sensational innings on her part too, had already cleared the boundary a couple of times. Once, Sneh Rana had come close at long on to parry one out of thin air. But this time, when the ball went to Harleen, she produced a moment of great athleticism and agility.

In fact, earlier in the over the Indian captain — no stranger to stunning catches — had taken a difficult one at long on to dismiss Sciver in the penultimate over where Shikha Pandey struck thrice, getting rid of Sciver, Jones and Sophia Dunkley (1).

While skipper Harmanpreet, fielding at long on, put an end to Sciver’s brilliant innings by diving to pouch the ball inches over the ground, two balls later, Harleen went one better.

She put an end to Jones’ innings, as she jumped to take a superb reverse-cupped catch at the boundary above her head before losing her balance. She threw the ball in the air as she stepped out of the boundary rope only to jump back in, diving forward to complete the catch.

Skipper Harmanpreet later said the team’s fielding has improved considerably under the guidance of coach Abhay Sharma and it is something the team hoped to carry forward. India’s fielding across formats has come under the scanner in recent times, even during the home series against South Africa earlier this year. It was seen as an area where improvements had to happen and soon.

It is a catch that even got the nod from the opponent vice-captain and star of the night, Sciver:

“It’s brilliant. We don’t see many of those catches in the women’s game. We see quite a few of those in the men’s game but hopefully this can be the start of a few more that we see in our game. I’d love to have one of those; that’s what you practise for, you have a little go at the end of the session or whatever it is, but it was a brilliant catch.”    

— Press conference (via ESPNCricinfo)
Video credit: England & Wales Cricket Board

As Harmanpreet Kaur said after the match, the boundary catching is one of the aspects that the Indian team has been practising in trying to improve their fielding, as Mark Butcher was saying on air after Harleen Deol took the catch. This video edit from BCCI before the ODIs shows glimpses of that during team drills.

As a measure of the impact the catch has had, the Indian captain’s post-first-match / pre-second-match press conference on Saturday started with three questions about the moment and the team’s fielding. “Definitely, [one of the best catches I have seen]. Great effort by her. Credit goes to our support staff during fielding sessions,” she said.

Moments like these add to the energy on the field, she added. “When you play a team game, you need a momentum and it can come from any member of the team. When I took the catch, there was an energy that was created and then Harleen also took a great one.”

“Throughout the game, our ground fielding was good, we saved a lot of runs, and we also took some brilliant catches, so I think it is a great sign that our fielding has improved a lot.”

About what makes Abhay Sharma’s recent training sessions click, she said: “Abhay sir has been with us for quite sometime, his little awareness makes you a better player. That is being reflected in our fielding.

“Earlier also, we used to make a lot of effort but the little adjustments that he has done with our fielding, the individual sessions that he has taken with the players that has helped. The most important point was he judged every player where can do better fielding, so we are getting the results day by day from the effort that we have put in, which is a great positive,” she said ahead of the second match on Sunday.

Social media buzz

It got the attention from the footballing community too:

It even caught the attention Stateside.

Was it a fair catch?

A side debate soon started on whether the catch should have been allowed to stand as per the rules laid down by the International Cricket Council. Here’s the relevant clause from the playing conditions regarding the fielder being grounded beyond the boundary, which would result in a catch not being fair.

19.5 Fielder grounded beyond the boundary
19.5.1 A fielder is grounded beyond the boundary if some part of her person is in contact with any of the following:

– the boundary or any part of an object used to mark the boundary;
– the ground beyond the boundary;
– any object that is in contact with the ground beyond the boundary;
– another fielder who is grounded beyond the boundary.

19.5.2 A fielder who is not in contact with the ground is considered to be grounded beyond the boundary if her final contact with the ground, before her first contact with the ball after it has been
delivered by the bowler, was not entirely within the boundary.

— via ICC's playing conditions (May 2021)

While the wording is confusing in the clause (19.5.2 above), Marylebone Cricket Club, considered the guardian of the laws of the game tweeted this: “Under Law 19.5, the catch is deemed lawful. The key moment is when she first touches the ball, which is inside the boundary. She’s airborne for her second contact.”

Read the full boundary laws here:

It is not often that a moment on the field overshadows everything that went on in a cricket match. Such moments are rare and Harleen Deol’s catch certainly belongs in that category.

Full match report: Sciver’s record-equalling fifty powers England to 18-run win over India