Greetings from the UAE. It’s been a full on couple of weeks which started with the 3rd Test between Pakistan and England in Dubai.
It was an interesting Test on a number of fronts. Firstly, we saw 16 wickets fall on the first day with Pakistan bowled out for 99 and England just pass them at the end of the day. Secondly, I had my first two player decision reviews overturned with the second perhaps a little unlucky but I still had to deal with and try to recover from a count of naught from two. I personally had twenty appeals on the first day and it is a day that taught me a lot about umpiring and mental strength.
The next three days of the Test were equally as tough and it was very satisfying to get through them error free and I was able to prove that there are strategies that can work to recover from setbacks. It was new territory for me and it was a good experience from which to draw strength and knowledge from. Pakistan ended up winning the game through the second innings partnership of Younis Khan and Azhar Ali, who both scored centuries, and bowled England out on day four, to win by 71 runs. It was only the second time in Test history when a side has won after being bowled out for less than 100 runs.
Jeff Crowe and I were then fortunate enough to play golf at the Els Club at Dubai Sports City. I partnered with Vince van der Bijl while Jeff partnered with Dave Richardson. I spent most of the round playing from the desert, but did manage to hit one good drive only then to find the only water on the course with my second shot – needless to say, Jeff and Dave took the cash but I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.
I then umpired Afghanistan’s first one day international match when they played Pakistan in Sharjah – a ground which holds the record for the most ODIs (something like 202 matches played there). It was also the international debut of my on field partner from Pakistan, Shozab Raza. It was like a local derby match played between neighbours and was well supported with a full house of spectators complete with horns and hooters. Afghanistan took the contest to the Pakistan bowlers and were eventually bowled out for 195 and nearly batted out their full 50 overs. It would have been worse had Afridi not chipped in with 5 wickets. Pakistan were in early trouble in the chase under lights but got the winning runs with 7 wickets and 10 overs to spare. Afghanistan were very impressive the way they played and it was challenging to umpire a team who had very few players who could speak English which made sign language more important when giving guard and communicating over rates!
We then headed across to Abu Dhabi for the one day series with England. A 90 minute drive to the new hotel and city. The first ODI here was a couple of days ago and England batted first with Kevin Peterson opening with Alistair Cook. My first decision to give KP not out LBW was challenged by Pakistan and it took over 2 minutes for Hawk-Eye to generate an image to support my decision – it was close to the longest 2 minutes of my life as it was a tight call that happened in the first couple of overs in the match – a lot goes through your mind in this time! DRS saved Cook when I gave him out LBW from an inside edge (and I could hear referee Ranjan Madugalle laughing from Sri Lanka) and he went on to score his highest ODI total of 137 which helped England to 260 runs from their 50 overs.
Pakistan were never in the hunt as they lost their first four wickets to the pace of Steve Finn – two LBWs in a row (that were not challenged) and then two caught behinds. Pakistan finally were dismissed for 113.
On our day off yesterday, I spent around 5 hours in meetings with my boss doing performance reviews and discussing upcoming training events and needs. Following that, I joined my umpiring team mates (Kumar Dharmasena and Aleem Dar) to do a ground inspection and we then stopped off at the large Mosque here for a visit.
It is the 3rd largest Mosque in the world and is similar in stature and style to the Taj Mahal in India. Apart from being so big, you cannot be but amazed by the quality of coloured marble inlays, the cut crystal windows, hand made Persian carpets and spectacular domed ceilings with chandeliers.
We spent about an hour there at sunset – hope you like the photos, but they really don’t do it justice.
Yesterday, also being Valentine’s day, it was a little harder being away from home, so the next best thing was to spend the night and have a meal with all the match officials at a local Pakistani restaurant. Eight of us enjoyed some good, “hot” fresh dishes and were well fed for the princely sum of US$9 each!
Well, back to work today as 3rd umpire for the second ODI and then back to Dubai tomorrow, so please take care and hug your loved ones. Simon.
It is the 3rd largest Mosque in the world and is similar in stature and style to the Taj Mahal in India. Apart from being so big, you cannot be but amazed by the quality of coloured marble inlays, the cut crystal windows, hand made Persian carpets and spectacular domed ceilings with chandeliers. We spent about an hour there at sunset – hope you like the photos, but they really don’t do it justice.