Andrew Symonds was one of those cricketers who was just that little bit special.
And unlike most, who we remember for their deeds with either the bat or the ball, some of Symonds’ most memorable moments came in the field.
He hunted in the field and pounced.
South African Jonty Rhodes was considered the best ring fielder in the game at the turn of the century.
But Rhodes said Symonds didn’t just pip him, but it was “10 times better”.
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“Where he’s better than me is that he’s a true all-round fieldsman,” Rhodes said in 2006.
“For a big guy, he moves well close to the wicket, getting down to the ground, diving, cutting off balls if he’s in the ring.
“He’s quick and can cut off boundaries. But the extra dimension is his strength. From the middle of the innings, he can be out on the fence saving twos because he has such a strong arm.
“Put him anywhere on the field and he’s brilliant. He is the complete fieldsman. I can’t imagine there’s been anyone better in the past.”
This is what Richie Benaud said following Symonds’ run out of West Indian Laurie Williams in 2001: “Twisting and turning and diving, and then swiveling without actually getting up on to his feet, and he still hit the stumps and ran the batsman out. ”
But what were the five innings that defined him?
1: 2003 World Cup semi-final: Australia vs. Sri Lanka – 91 not out in 7-212
When we think of Andrew Symonds, one innings stands out.
His matchwinning century against Pakistan was his breakthrough innings after a stop-start five-year opening to his career.
But one innings was just as important, perhaps even more given the significance of the occasion.
Sure Symonds’ century against Pakistan set the tone for their campaign.
But his 91* against Sri Lanka in the semi-final kept Australia in the series.
His second matchwinning knock of the series kept Australia afloat, after slumping to 7-175.
In response, Australia won by 48 runs on the Duckworth Lewis Method.
Yet his heroics are overshadowed by Adam Gilchrist’s decision to walk during the same match.
After getting off to a flying start, Gilchrist walked despite being given not out by Rudi Koertzen despite edging the ball onto his pads and up in the air as he attempted a sweep.
In the days before the DRS, Gilchrist shocked the world.
He was joined back in the sheds by a livid Ricky Ponting, as Australia’s formidable order collapsed.
Symonds, however, patiently built as wickets fell around him, including Michael Bevan for a duck, before unleashing at the death.
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2: 2003 World Cup opening pool match: Australia vs Pakistan – 143* out of 8-310
Off the back of Shane Warne’s shock suspension, Australia looked vulnerable.
Darren Lehmann was still suspended while Bevan was recovering from injury.
Australia, meanwhile, was 4-86 when Symonds walked to the crease to join Ponting – the man who had argued his case to get on the plane to South Africa.
Symonds started shakily, as he flirted outside the off-stump as Waqar Younis played with him.
But then his innings started to click, as he took a particular liking to all-rounder Abdul Rassaq and dangerous leggie Shahid Afridi, particularly through the cover region.
With Ponting gone, Pakistan smelled blood.
But Symonds grew and grew as he took Australia from 5-146 to 8-310.
His stunning diving catch forward to remove middle-order gun Mohammad Yousuf then sealed the deal, as Pakistan were bowled out for 228.
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3: 2006 Boxing Day Test: Australia vs. England – 156 off 220
Just like his foray into ODI cricket, Symonds took his time to feel at home with the baggy green on his head.
But just as he did in ODIs, when Symonds got the monkey off his back he was off and running.
At the MCG, with England smelling blood and Australia on the ropes at 5-86 after Ponting, Hussey and Clarke had each failed to make double figures, Symonds joined his great mate Matthew Hayden at the crease.
What transpired was a thing of beauty, as Symonds looked at home when others looked out of place.
He slew England on that day in Melbourne.
Undeterred of being in the nervous nineties, he brought his century up in the most stunning style as he leaned on a full-pitched ball by Paul Collingwood and hit him over the ropes for six.
Symonds jumped in the air as Hayden bear hugged him, arms aloft.
It was another moment of the summer, coming just a day after Warne’s 700th wicket.
4: 2005 Australia vs. New Zealand: 156 off 127
Not for the first time throughout his career, Symonds walked to the crease with Australia in a spot of bother.
He had walked to the crease after failing in two Tests against the West Indies back home.
Then he unleashed his frustration against the Black Caps in Wellington, with short-arm cut shots, flat bat brutality over the leg side and wickedly fast hands down the ground.
In an innings of raw power, Symonds brought up his half-century of 70 deliveries and slowly increased his strike-rate as he brought up three figures with a work to the leg-side.
Then he went berserk, with Michael Clarke at the other end as they almost broke the record for the biggest fifth-wicket stand in ODI history.
Symonds hit eight sixes and 12 boundaries during his biggest score in ODIs.
5: 2005 Boxing Day Test, Australia vs. South Africa: 55 off 47
Sometimes in sport it’s more about the moment than the total score.
For Symonds, his half-century against South Africa was another pivotal moment in his Test career.
Backed for his supreme talent and matchwinning capabilities, Symonds was given another chance against the Proteas following his ton across the Tasman.
He walked to the MCG having scored 41 runs at 5.85.
Then over the next session, he took the game away from South Africa as he belted 55 off 47 in an innings that included four sixes and three boundaries.
Australia only managed 308 in reply to South Africa’s first-innings total of 205, but for Symonds the Test match shackles were broken.
He was off and running.