Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin broke the world record for the number of dismissals in a Test match series on the fifth and final day of the fifth Test match at the Oval on Sunday in what was the standout performance in this thrilling draw.
When opener Joe Root edged behind in England’s second-innings run chase to give Haddin his 29th victim of this five-match series, the New South Welshman went past compatriot Rod Marsh, who recorded 27 dismissals, also against England, in the 1982/83 Ashes series Down Under.
And in what was a nice moment, the former Aussie skipper was even there in the Oval stands to see the historic moment in his guise as Australia’s Chairman of Selectors, although it was hard to tell if he was happy or disappointed at seeing his record surpassed.
Either way, though, Sunday capped off what has been an outstanding summer both behind the stumps and with bat in hand for the 35-year-old, who against all predictions before this five-match series got under way, has completely outperformed his opposite number in both forms of the game, England’s Matt Prior.
While the Sussex man has been uncharacteristically untidy in his glove work and without even a half century to his name in any of the Tests this summer, Haddin has been the complete opposite as one of the tourists’ few positives to have come out of this series.
And you can be damn sure that will have greatly pleased Haddin, and not Prior, as there is always a mini contest that goes on between the opposing wicketkeepers in any series, much in the same way that goalkeepers like to compare and contrast their displays, too.
One must also remember that Haddin was not even originally down to be Australia’s stumper in this series, with the tourists having initially selected Matthew Wade, who kept wicket in their disastrous tour of India that preceded the Ashes.
However, it was then decided that Haddin’s greater experience and know-how of English conditions—he was reserve keeper here on the 2005 tour and then first choice four years later—would be the best way to go into the crucial first Test at Trent Bridge, with Wade not having a look in ever since, and with good reason, too.
In Nottingham, Haddin very nearly single-handedly got Australia over the line with his gutsy second-innings 71, only to fall just short, while he also contributed a useful and breezy 65 not out in the first innings at Old Trafford to help Michael Clarke declare in good time.
But it has been his actual wicketkeeping—the main requirement of his job, as it is no good for a stumper scoring runs if he then cannot catch the ball—that has really shone on this tour of England, the hardest place to keep wicket, as all keepers will tell you due to the swinging ball.
And that was summed up in particular in his display with the gloves in England’s first innings at the Oval, and none more so than on the fifth day, the 22nd and last one action between these two fierce and historic rivals this summer.
Haddin’s high standards and professionalism did not drop one iota, when he could easily have switched off and started to think of the flight back home after this long and, at times, demoralising tour, especially with the game seemingly drifting towards a seemingly inevitable draw.
However, that would be totally against everything this veteran stands for, as his stunning leg-side catch to see off the in-form Ian Bell in the morning session testified to. Although, that is not the first time that Haddin has pulled off a screamer down the leg side this summer to see off a top-order English batsman, and you get the feeling it won’t be the last either this year.
There were, as will happen in this top-level sport, a couple of moments he would like to forget, namely putting down James Anderson low to his left off Peter Siddle in what would have been a record-equalling catch. Although, it did not matter too much, as moments later, he made up for that rare mistake by snaring the left-hander to draw level with Marsh.
And then as the tourists chased quick runs and a declaration in the afternoon, Haddin was out first ball to Stuart Broad. But again, that dismissal was symptomatic of the wicketkeeper’s selfless attitude with the bat all summer long, as he has always been prepared to sacrifice his wicket for the good of the team cause.
The combative keeper has finished his tour with 206 gutsy runs and the last day of the series with a world-record 29 Test-match dismissals in what was an eye-catching performance behind the stumps.