Simon Taufel was right in the middle of ALL the action at the recent England vs. India test match! Read on to find out how a few days at the cricket turned into a whole lot more than a historic victory by a dominant England!
Greetings from Birmingham where tensions were on edge in the lead up to the match due to significant riots and looting in the streets. Some of the television pictures from London were shocking with the burning building and cars causing distress for many. As for Birmingham, we did not escape some of those scenes – two nights out from the game, we were at a function at the ground when the news broke. We left for the “safety” of the hotel only to find 100m from the hotel a group of about 150 “hoodies” trying to rob and loot a local shopping centre.
The following day, Ranjan Madugalle and I went for a walk into the city centre to survey the damage and grab something to eat – paid for of course! Many shops had been damaged, windows broken and stock stolen. Most of the mobile phone shops and jewelers remained closed and some were boarding up their window fronts in anticipation of more trouble. The photo below shows the increased presence of the police in the streets while many are left to pick up the pieces of the riots and looting.
We left the hotel (my onfield partner was Steve Davis, 3rd umpire Rod Tucker and match referee Ranjan Madugalle) to a cold and strong wind blowing. Lots of security at the ground given the events of the last couple of days. England won the toss and elected to bowl first. A helpful pitch saw India go to lunch losing 4 wickets for 75 runs. Wickets continued to fall during the next session until MS Dhoni and Kumar stopped the rot. Dhoni hit some big 6’s before he was out for 77. India were soon dismissed for 224. The breeze did not let up and I lost my hat at square leg during England’s session of 0/84 in their 25 overs.
The rain came down this morning and held up the start by half an hour. England continued where they left off and only lost one wicket by the time they passed the India 1st innings score. The full house crowd were enjoying the one sided contest made more difficult by the visitors themselves dropping three pretty simple catches. By the end of the day (another long one), only three people had been on the field for the full three days – Steve, myself and Alastair Cook who remained 182 not out.
Well it was more of the same today – Cook and England batting and India bowlers struggling. It was a tough day umpiring – we had showers, bad light, tight appeals and pressure from the players and the crowd. At one point Steve and I stopped play for bad light and could not use the artificial lights as they had a malfunction. That was met with huge boos from the crowd. After a short break of around 15 minutes, I went across to the England dressing room to inform them we were restarting and was met by some very angry fans as I walked up the steps. It took all my control to look at one antagonist in the eyes and not lose my cool or respond. Cook kept on batting and was eventually out for 294 and England had amassed 710 runs when Strauss declared. India had 13 overs to face and began poorly when Sehwag was out to his first ball faced again – he managed a king pair of ducks – out first ball in both innings and I have never seen that before in Test cricket. 1/35 India at stumps and still another 451 runs to get to make England bat again!
The day started with a friendly chat out on the pitch with one of the ICC umpire selectors (David “Bumble” Lloyd) and Nassar Hussain with the other umps. Bumble had already checked out of the hotel that morning in anticipation of a day 4 finish and Nassar was looking for an early finish too. I took the opportunity of reminding Nassar about how unkind commentators were when we got decisions wrong – at least I got a smile out of him.
7th ball of the day Gambhir was gone and India lost 3 wickets in the first session. The key man was Tendulkar and he was unluckily run out by backing up too far when a straight drive was hit back at the stumps. The English crowd and players sensed the kill and it was becoming a real party atmosphere. Praveen Kumar presented us with the highlight of the day when he hit Swann for a 6 into the stand and the ball landed in the beer mug of a spectator – both the ball and spectator were covered in Britain’s finest brew. Another bright spot was when one crowd member who was dressed up as a banana and ran through the stand chased by around 50 overs spectators dressed up as black gorillas who were all throwing bananas to other fans – they enjoy their sport here!
As for the cricket, we finished the match just after 3pm with India losing by an innings and more than 240 runs. England are now ranked number 1 in Test cricket and didn’t they celebrate hard after the match.
We now have an extra day off in Birmingham and then drive down to London on Monday ahead of the last Test being played at the Oval. Let’s hope the locals behave themselves and the riots and looting are well and truly a thing of the past!
Take care, Simon.