No 51: Umpires

Whether to discuss the decisions you have seen on TV that day, whether to fume about the bloke who has just spoiled your Saturday by quickly raising his finger (“being triggered”), or whether just to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of the bloke, cricket could not function without an umpire, so you have to love them (sort of). 

We giggled at Billy Bowden’s antics on the field when he first appeared on our screens in the 90s, before cricket collectively tutted at him & made him concentrate on the decisions.

We sighed despondently when Dickie took them off for bad light yet again when all on our screens seemed fine and dandy. 

We cringe at every stinker we got in our careers, and remember them ALL (well I do, don’t know about you). I still remember the guy who triggered me twice LBW in the same season after massive inside edges.

We swear, shout and question the lineage of the guy who saws you off LBW with the 2nd ball of the game. Especially if you don’t bowl. Your mood at work for the forthcoming week may be dictated by the movement of a Septugenarian index finger.

We hide out of the way if there is a chance we might be required to do “square leg” or maybe even an end in games with no umpires. 

We chuckle at the famous ones, the umpires who gain a near-legendary status due to their sheer incompetence. The umpire who you make sure you appeal at constantly in the second innings, because you know what time his last bus is due, so are bound to get decisions if time is looking a bit tight.

In personal experience, there was one guy who became famous around our club, and would provide the fuel for beer anecdotes, including (but not exclusively)


“Wide ball. And over”


“One short”

“But they only ran one”

“Oh yeah. Cancel that last signal scorers”


“Dead Ball, you didn’t play a shot”

“Well, yeah it was a bye, I don’t have to”

“Get back to the other end”

(Some two overs later)

“You were right about that bye. Hope you don’t lose by 1 run”


The number of teams who left our ground in utter disbelief at some of the decisions grew year on year. I must point out they guy wasn’t biased, he was just as likely to give decisions against either side.

Every club cricketer will have tales about one or more.

Confession time, for the last 12 years, I have been an umpire.


It’s amazing what jumping to the other side of the fence does. I immediately underwent a conversion from non-walker to walker for the rest of my playing days (Umpires’ Union and all that). Looking back, not walking hadn’t done me much good over the years anyway.

My pet hate was being given out LBW sweeping. I would return to the sanctity of the dressing room and unleash my stream of invective about how if I was just playing a forward defensive with the same stride, I would never be given. You know what? When someone sweeps, it is very easy to give LBWs, you get such a good look at it. I’ve given loads of them!

Presumably now players question MY parentage and abuse me when they have returned back to the hutch (never on the field, I always waited to get off the field first!). Certainly the facial expressions of many LBW victims would indicate that is likely to be the case.

Obviously umpiring is very straightforward, just ask Bob Willis. The scrutiny given by TV means that 15 year old lads now expect you to be able to give naked eye run-outs that a high-speed camera can barely discern, cos they can do it on the telly. 

It doesn’t half help you keep in touch with the game once playing is no longer a physically-viable option, though it’s murder if it rains, cricketers REALLY can moan. 

And it makes you a real saddo as well, having learned the laws.


1.    On a very small ground, the opening bowler is bowling express pace. He runs in and delivers the ball, but it slips out of his hand, sails over the batsman’s head, the wicket keeper’s head and crosses the boundary without bouncing. What should be the correct call & signal?


2.    Batsman A faces a delivery & hits it straight up in the air, a long way up. The batsmen take a run whilst the wicket-keeper positions himself under the ball to take the catch. Just as he is about to catch it, Batsman B (the non-striker) screams in his ear “DROP IT” at the top of his voice. The wicket keeper drops the ball, and the fielding side appeal. What do you do?


If you can answer those you are probably a qualified umpire (or maybe scorer). Because I’m a little sadistic, I’ll post the correct answers as a comment at some unspecified time in the future!


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