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SK Play of the Day: Wriddhiman Saha's sensational one-handed diving catch in Pune

Indian wicket-keeper flies to his right to support Umesh Yadav's vicious spell against Australia.

Wriddhiman Saha
Saha flew across to his right to complete a stunning catch

If there were any lingering doubts regarding who has been India’s number one wicket-keeper, Wriddhiman Saha‘s sensational one-handed diving catch in the opening day of the first Test against Australia at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune should be enough to answer even those naysayers as well.

Watch: Saha’s stunning one-handed diving catch

The Prelude

India had lost a crucial toss on a pitch which already showed signs of turning square from the first session itself. The nature of the surface was revealed when Virat Kohli had off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin open the bowling alongside Ishant Sharma.

Showing immense resolve, Australia got off to a strong start on the back of David Warner and Matt Renshaw’s sterling opening stand. Amidst a no-ball fiasco as well as plenty of plays and misses, India’s bowlers seemed to be feeling heat right at the start of the series.

Introduced into the attack just before the opening session came to an end, Umesh Yadav managed to provide the breakthrough. A fuller delivery at sharp pace got rid of the dangerous David Warner. With Renshaw leaving the field temporarily due to an illness, the visitors suddenly found themselves with two new batsmen at the crease.

Soon, the spinners began to find their rhythm and capitalize on the window of opportunity. Saha’s dexterity behind the stumps was evident against the drift of Ashwin, sharpness of Ravindra Jadeja and flight of Jayant Yadav.

Even as patches of the surface took off when the spinners hit the right lengths, the gloveman collected majority of the deliveries quite close to his chest. Australia’s batsmen started to wilt against the turn and bounce available.

Jayant‘s angle from over the wicket to the left-handed Shaun Marsh fetched the second wicket. After a brief partnership between Peter Handscomb and Steven Smith, Jadeja and Ashwin struck in consecutive overs to set the wheels in motion. Mitchell Marsh did not last long either against the relentless accuracy of the left-arm spinner.

However, Renshaw who had returned to the field after Handscomb’s dismissal, was trying to stitch an useful stand with wicket-keeper batsman Matthew Wade. As he has so often done over the course of this home season, Umesh struck once more when his team needed a wicket. With the ball starting to reverse significantly, the Vidarbha speedster was looking in ominous mood.

The Catch of the Season

When Ashwin removed the stodgy Renshaw at the other end, the situation was tailor made for Umesh to apply the finishing touches to the innings by cleaning up the tail. The fast bowler delivered a short and wide delivery at rapid pace. Despite Steve O’Keefe’s attempt to flay hard at the width on offer, the extra pace and semblance of outward movement meant that he was late on the shot.

A thick edge was induced off the cut. The ball traveled quickly right between the wicket-keeper and the first slip. Just when it appeared like it would escape both men’s clutches and trickle towards the boundary, Saha flew across to pull off a sensational catch. Despite the reaction time being very less, the 32-year old dived to his right with both feet almost parallel to the turf and somehow managed to hold on to complete a stunning take.

Reinvigorated by his wicket-keeper’s acrobatic skills, Umesh made it two in two by trapping Nathan Lyon in front. Mitchell Starc counter-attacked with a quick-fire half-century to propel Australia's score to 256/9 at the close of day one.

In an action-packed day filled with sharp turn, it took a fast bowler and wicket-keeper to combine together to produce the moment of the day. With a catch reminiscent of his remarkable grab in the 2015 Delhi Test against South Africa, Saha once again showed his commendable prowess behind the stumps.

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