The T20 format, especially the IPL, has brought about a positive change in the game. Since the advent of the shortest format of the game, the way cricket is played has changed for the better. More Test matches have been producing results, and ODI teams have been chasing down scores in excess of 350 more regularly.
Fielding standards have improved to a great extent, with teams realising the need to save every run and hold on to their catches. Innovation and smartness have become a crucial trait for the modern-day cricketer. And thus arose the concept of relay catches, which players nowadays execute to perfection.
Relay catches are ones that are completed in partnership by a pair of fielders who ensure that the ball remains in play. Such fielding spectacles, usually seen near the boundary rope, require a high presence of mind and efficient teamwork to be executed successfully.
The IPL has seen several instances of relay catches during its rich 12-year history. On that note, let us have a look at the seven best relay catches seen in the IPL.
Seven best relay catches in the IPL:
1. Tim Southee - Karun Nair (Rajasthan Royals)
In their first match of the IPL 2015 season, Rajasthan Royals faced 2014 IPL runners-up Kings XI Punjab. Asked to chase down 163 runs to start their campaign on a winning note, Punjab needed 32 runs off the last seven balls when captain George Bailey smoked James Faulkner's length-ball towards the long-on fence.
The ball was destined to go over the ropes only for Tim Southee to pluck it out of thin air before popping it back into the field of play. Karun Nair, who had made enough ground running in from mid-wicket, showed good presence of mind to cup the ball with his right hand just inches above the turf, to send Bailey back to the hut.
2. Faf du Plessis - Dhruv Shorey (Chennai Super Kings)
In the 39th match of the 2019 edition of the IPL, hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore were 126/5 after 16.3 overs against three-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings.
Looking for a final flourish, a well-set Marcus Stoinis slammed a leg-spinning Imran Tahir delivery high into the night sky. The ball looked to have enough distance to clear the short Chinnswamy Stadium boundary.
Faf du Plessis, one of the best boundary riders in the game, fabulously set himself up right next to the long-off fence and calmly pouched the ball with two hands. However, with his momentum carrying him over the ropes, Du Plessis tossed the ball up at a comfortable height for substitute fielder Dhruv Shorey to complete a superb catch.
3. Andre Russell - Piyush Chawla (Kolkata Knight Riders)
In a 2016 IPL match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders, the pair of Eoin Morgan and Naman Ojha were begininning to impart momentum to their team's innings when Morne Morkel came in to bowl the 18th over.
Ojha flat-batted a rising delivery straight over the bowler's head but could not generate enough power for the ball to go over the ropes. Andre Russell, running in from long-on, ended up misjudging the catch but in a last-minute adjustment, he grasped the ball with his left hand.
But with his momentum carrying him over the boundary ropes, Russell switched hands and flicked the ball up in the direction of Piyush Chawla who had come running in from long-off.
Chawla had to stretch himself to reach the ball with his left hand before pocketing it with both hands to complete a fabulous relay catch. What made this catch special was that both fielders put in great effort to pull it off.
4. Glenn Maxwell - Trent Boult (Delhi Capitals)
The duo of Glenn Maxwell and Trent Boult deserve a special mention in this list of extraordinary relay catches in the IPL. That is because their partnership pulled off relay catches not once but twice, and that too in the same match.
In their last match of IPL 2018, Mumbai Indians needed to win away at Delhi Daredevils (now called Delhi Capitals) to keep their hopes of entering the playoffs alive.
Chasing 175 runs for victory, the 4-time IPL champions lost hard-hitting batsman Kieron Pollard in the tenth over when the West Indian attempted to hit leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane for a flat six over long-on.
Maxwell, who was guarding the fence in that region, grabbed the powerfully-hit ball with both hands but could not stop himself from crossing the ropes due to his momentum. However, before going over the ropes, he threw the ball to Trent Boult, positioned at long-off, who completed the catch without any hiccups.
Four overs later, when Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma was looking set to take his team over the line, the duo of Maxwell and Boult combined to create magic once again. Sharma miscued an off-cutter from Harshal Patel long and high but not with enough power to clear Maxwell.
Maxwell and Boult pulled off another terrific relay catch. The fact that they achieved the feat twice in the same match and the sheer nonchalance with which they pulled it off, made for an unforgettable experience and contributed to Mumbai's group-stage exit in IPL 2018.
5. Shane Watson - David Wiese (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Chasing a stiff target of 192 runs in an IPL 2016 game against hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils opener Shreyas Iyer went after Sreenath Arvind right from the word go.
Off the last ball of the first over, Iyer skied a good-length ball after dancing down the track. As the ball made its way towards the long-on fence, both Shane Watson and David Wiese, placed at mid-on and mid-off respectively, gave a long chase under the night sky.
Both men made good ground before Watson caught the ball. But with his momentum taking him over the ropes, a tumbling Watson threw the ball up towards Wiese.
Wiese leapt full length after pacing a couple of steps to account for the ball's trajectory and then took a one-handed stunner, all the while ensuring that no part of his body or gear touched the boundary rope.
It was a marvellous relay catch as the brilliance of both men ensured arguably the best catch in IPL history.
6. Mayank Agarwal - Manoj Tiwary (Kings XI Punjab)
In a 2018 IPL game against Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals were looking to up the momentum with their star pair of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes in the middle.
In the 13th over of the innings, Stokes made room and clobbered a slow delivery from Mujeeb-ur-Rehman straight over the latter's head.
The ball seemingly had six written all over it. However, Mayank Agarwal, fielding at long-on, had other ideas. The Kings XI Punjab batsman timed his jump to perfection to catch the ball well above his head and also ensured that he landed inches inside the boundary rope.
The off-balance Agarwal then showed remarkable presence of mind to throw the ball straight to Manoj Tiwary, who was fielding at long-on and hardly got any time to cover ground and get near his teammate.
But Agarwal threw the ball back with enough power even as he tumbled over the ropes, ensuring that Tiwary could complete a comfortable catch. The athleticism and presence of mind showed by Agarwal made that relay effort a contender for the best catch of that IPL season.
7. Colin Ingram- Axar Patel (Delhi Capitals)
Sandeep Lamichhane was once again the bowler who benefitted from brilliance in the field from his fellow IPL teammates. In Delhi's home match against Kings XI Punjab in the 2019 edition of the IPL, the hosts were being taken to the cleaners by 'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle.
In the 13th over of Punjab's innings, Gayle welcomed Lamichhane with a six. The bowler then followed up with another poor short-of-length delivery that the powerful Jamaican spanked in the mid-wicket direction.
Colin Ingram, who was stationed at the mid-wicket fence, arched backwards to take the catch with both hands above his head. But realising that his momentum would drag him over the boundary line, the Kiwi player tossed the ball powerfully in the direction of Axar Patel who was nowhere near.
Patel, who was stationed at long-on, gleefully accepted the ball a good 30 meters away from Ingram, thus completing one of the best catches of the IPL season.