England v South Africa News File – ODI series
All the talk in between the end of the Test series and the beginning of this series was the announcement that Andrew Strauss had retired from all forms of cricket effective immediately. So, as the last umpire to give Strauss out (LBW) in the 3rd Test, it appears that I may have ruined another career!?
Well, as predicted the English summer delivered poorly on the people of Cardiff for the 1st ODI. Although we were staying in a great hotel next to a golf course, our minds were firmly fixed on how to manage the poor weather. Not only was dinner ruined the night before the game as we attempted to eat outside, but on game day we only managed 5.3 overs for the day. In my role at 3rd umpire, I got plenty of practice of interrupted match calculations from Kumar and Richard Kettleborough as they requested no less than 9 possible and actual restart times. A long and frustrating day for all concerned.
Following the Cardiff wash out, we headed up to Southampton. We stayed at a nice hotel next to the international shipping terminal and the large ocean liners were an impressive site. The newly named ground here, the Ageas Bowl was where Shane Warne played most of his county cricket and a stand is duly named after him. The contest between England and South Africa turned out to be a fairly one sided one as Hashim Amla hit one of the best ODI centuries seen as his 150 helped his side amass around 280 runs off 50 overs. Amla has had a great summer here and has been helped a lot by the England fielders who have put down a number of catches off his blade and this game was no different as they managed to drop him twice today. England could not chase down the runs and lost by 80 runs and temporary lost their number 1 ODI ranking.
The next day we headed off again and drove back to London for the 3rd ODI at the Oval. This is one of my favourite grounds, but I would be looking at it and officiating from the TV umpire’s room. The match wasn’t much of a spectacle but it was a hard one all round to officiate – including me. I had one of those interesting DRS decisions where the batsman was given out caught, it was reviewed instantly by the batsman who claimed he did not hit it, hot spot indicated no contact but there was a good “nick” as the ball passed the bat and looked like a straight forward caught behind. I duly upheld Kumar’s decision on the basis that there was not enough evidence to suggest otherwise and received much booing from the English crowd who were not privy to stump audio through the giant replay screen! Even off the field, who wants to be an umpire these days??
The following day we moved hotels (again) and prepared for the 4th ODI at Lords. Ground inspection done, Kumar, Andy Pycroft and myself were invited to see a local EPL football match between Tottenham Hotspurs and Norwich being played at White Hart Lane. The cabbie, who was an Arsenal fan, almost denied taking us to the venue as he “wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like Tottenham”.
It was a great experience to be soaking up the atmosphere of an EPL match. The locals booed their home team at half time with the score nil nil – I was get used to hearing lots of booing here! Mind you, the English referees are on the end of a lot of spectator criticism, and we were tempted at times to also voice our opinion at some of the decisions (as lay football “experts”). Spurs were lucky to get away with a one all draw but no one seemed happy – we had a great time though.
The next day we had the 4th ODI at Lords. Another special ground and a large crowd gathered for the Sunday day game, although with the lights on for most of the afternoon it could be argued it was actually a day / night game. I was onfield with Richard Illingworth and it was again a pleasure to be in the middle at this venue. Another arm wrestle took place between these two teams – SA struggling to 220 and England getting there with a couple of overs to spare. I walked off the hallowed turf at Lords with hearing a “big thank you” from ground announcer, Johnny Denis. Good memories.
The next day saw me head back to Lords in the morning with jacket and tie to attend a MCC Laws Committee meeting. Several robust debates were had about potential Law changes and interpretations but I did enjoy such meetings and the contribution towards shaping the future of our game. The only downside was the inability to stay for the traditional excellent Lords lunch, but my fellow officials were already kind enough to delay our departure to Nottingham so I could attend the meeting and were waiting at the Grace Gates for me to appear. So, we then drove up to Robin Hood country and checked into our new hotel late in the afternoon.
We had an extra day in between games here, so I was able to catch up on some training work, in and out of the gym. It was great to catch up with one of the ECB umpires (Russell Evans) and an ECB umpires coach (David Byas) at a local Indian restaurant. A great meal was organized by the traditional Indian owner (Tony) for us, only spoiled by my feeble attempts at ordering a café latte at the end of the night. After 4 incorrect attempts by an Indian “Manuel” to make a latte without milk, I offered to make the bloody thing myself!
The final game of the series was at Trent Bridge – a day night affair but we finished just as the lights were taking over. England batted first and were all out for 182 and SA passed their score 3 down with 15 overs to spare. That man Amla was in the thick of it again with an unbeaten 97. As 3rd umpire for this match, it was pleasing to not have any tough ones, but Richard Illingworth did keep me in business and interested in the game.
ODI’s done now and time to head back to Dubai for our ICC match officials conference next week. I’m looking forward to the Accreditation training, catching up with the other match officials and the 40 degree heat. After that we fly out to Colombo on Thursday for the ICC World T20 tournament for 3 weeks of matches and events – can’t wait to get there and be joined by my family for a great experience.
Keep well and stay in touch, Simon.