Legends Month: The best of Jonty Rhodes
As part of Legends Month on Cricket Network, look back on one of Jonty Rhodes' greatest performances
25 May 2018, 04:31 PM AEST
Watch Jonty Rhodes leap and bound across the turf. See him sprint towards the ball and fling himself into the air as he releases his throw. The grace. The athleticism. The sheer beauty of it.
For a decade in South Africa's national team, Rhodes bounced around backward point like a springbok on the savannah.
The cricket world first took notice of his remarkable fielding at the 1992 World Cup – a tournament that effectively doubled as South Africa's 'welcome back' party following their two-decade international ban due to apartheid.
There are a few enduring images of South Africa from that tournament. Kepler Wessels and Allan Border embracing as opposing captains and former teammates. The SCG scoreboard reading 'South Africa to win need 22 runs off 1 ball' following the rain delay that cruelled their tournament.
And Rhodes. Horizontal. Airborne. Flying towards the stumps, arms outstretched like superman as he pulled off one of the most famous run outs in cricket history.
The details have been largely lost with the passage of time.
South Africa are facing Pakistan, who are chasing a revised target of 194 from 36 overs owing to bad weather.
Pakistan No.3 Inzamam-ul-Haq has motored along to 48 from 43 deliveries. This is a 22-year-old Inzamam, a slighter version of the heavier figure he is perhaps more readily remembered as, and more adept at scampering between wickets.
His attempted hoick through mid-wicket takes a leading edge and balloons into the off side, travelling maybe 10 metres. He sets off for a quick single. His captain, Imran Khan, is at the non-striker's end. Imran takes a couple of quick paces but hesitates, and raises his right arm aloft, his hand out to indicate 'no'.
By this stage, Inzamam is almost halfway to his destination. He stops as abruptly as he can, and urgently begins retracing his steps.
Then, a blur. It's Rhodes.
He swoops in from point and collects the ball on the fly. Instinct tells him not to throw – that he can run to the stumps and remove the bails before the batsman has returned to safety.
With a series of lightning steps, it unfolds just like that. Only, not.
When Rhodes gets to within launching distance, he takes off. Arms flung out in front, his whole body follows, ultimately reaching a perfect horizontal plane, adjacent to earth. His hands, arms and entire body then clatter through the stumps. All three are left uprooted and scattered around the crease, an untidy end to a precise work of art.
Inzamam is short of his ground, and has little choice but to begin his long, slow walk to the pavilion.
It is a revolutionary run out.
A teenaged Ricky Ponting, just eight months out from his first-class debut, suddenly has a new fielding icon to admire. By the end of the decade, the Australian is vying with Rhodes for title of 'world's best fieldsman', and the diving run out is commonplace among the elite infield prowlers.
"He's probably the best defensive fieldsman that I've seen," Ponting told cricket.com.au last year.
"The balls that he was able to get his hands on – diving and saving (runs), and taking spectacular catches at backward point – he probably moved better than anybody else.
"He had that anticipation and was really quick off the mark.
"We used to say when it was Herschelle Gibbs and Jonty Rhodes at point and backward point, we didn't run until the ball went past them, because you could hit it into the gap, take off, and sure enough one of them would dive and save it.
"That created some confusion between batsmen and would lead to a run out."