The umpiring journey: ‘It was a low key start, but I am happy with that’

Mark Dunford umpiring on Saturday
Mark Dunford umpiring on Saturday

Sussex Sports editor Mark Dunford is in his first year as a qualified umpire, after passing his ECBACO Level 1 course over the winter. On Saturday he umpired his first match.

“It was a very low key start to my cricket umpiring career. But I am more than happy with that.

I am not going to lie, being the league appointed umpire for the West Sussex Invitation Cricket League Division 1 clash between Broadwater and Crawley Down, there were some nerves.

Yes, I have umpired in games before, but only as a player standing in when I was not batting.

I was going to be stood out in the middle for potentially 95 overs, and could have had potentially 45 overs or 270 balls of decision making ahead of me.

Fortunately the game only lasted 60.3 overs so less balls that could spark controversy.

DM16114320a.jpg Cricket: Broadwater v Crawley Down (batting). Photo by Derek Martin

DM16114320a.jpg Cricket: Broadwater v Crawley Down (batting). Photo by Derek Martin

In the weeks leading up to the match, I had plenty of advice coming my way. ‘Remember, you know the laws better than the players’, ‘don’t take any **** off anyone’, ‘Just talk to the players, be their friend’ were just some of the comments.

But I had made a decision early on I would do it my way by learning as I go.

If you would like to find out more about the ECBACO training courses, email iwanttobeanumpire@gmail.com or email SACO secretary Derek Knight on derekknight2012@gmail.com

I was delighted the forecast was good, the last thing I wanted to deal with on my first game was a rain affected match.

The first thing that came into my head was David Lloyd screaming ‘BUZZERS!’. My natural instinct saw me take a couple of steps before the ball before I realised what I was doing.

Mark Dunford

When I turned up at Broadwater Green, I was welcomed by home skipper Nigel Waller and home umpire Leighton Treagus and straight away they made me feel relaxed.

It is clear players and officials appreciate people turning to umpiring as it take pressure off the clubs on the day.

After checking out the pitch, ground and facilities it was nearing 12noon, half an hour before the start of play. There was one thing missing - the opposition.

We quickly referred to our West Sussex Invitation Cricket League handbook and it stated that if a side had not arrived by 15 minutes before the toss,the home side could claim the toss.

It got to 12.15 and still no opposition captain, although there were a couple of Crawley Down players milling about.

Nigel did not want to start the season on this note, so he asked Crawley Down player Stuart Simmonds if he would do the toss with him and that was agreed.

And it all went smoothly as Nigel won the toss and elected to field.

Now the next step. The match. And like I said at the very start, this was a very low key affair. There was plenty of incident, but nothing to bother me.

Crawley Down did well to reach a total of 133 all out considering they were 6-4 at one stage.

All dismissals were either bowled or caught. I had one muted appeal but I didn’t even have to give an answer. The bowler knew it wasn’t out.

But there was one interesting moment which luckily didn’t come back to haunt me. A full toss from Paul O’Sullivan appeared to been played and missed at, but it also eluded the keeper and the batsmen ran one bye. I signalled the bye to the scorer but as the batsman ran past me he said: “That would have been interesting if the keeper had caught that, I nicked that’.

I did not see or hear an edge. And it appears neither did anyone else so if he had caught it, I would have have said not out. But I would have expected any bastman who gets and edge to walk, obviously…..

As they finished on 34.5 overs (2.40pm), myself and Leighton decided with the captains to go straight back out and have tea at 3.30pm.

The second innings started with Crawley Down skipper Liam Lindsay bowling Corey Cogan with an absolute jaffa - and at that point I thought ‘this season I am going to have the best view in the house’.

After the early loss, Broadwater then got to tea without too much trouble. And a good tea it was to. Having played cricket for nearly 30 years, I have experienced some exceptional teas, some good teas and some poor teas. This was a good one.

And it was nice to catch up with my colleague Leighton about umpiring and any advice he had.

Broadwater lost another wicket just after tea thanks to a very good catch from Adam Robinson.

But after that is was one way traffic as Graham Waller powered the ball to all parts, scoring an unbeaten century from just 84 balls. It was a pleasure to watch.

I did have two appeals to deal with in the second innings. One an lbw and one a bat-pad caught behind.

On both occasions it was not out and after the latter, the bowler even said to me ‘We’re not desperate yet umpire, honest!’.

I did get a little bit flummoxed on what turned out to be the last ball.

Needing three to win, Graham Merritt-Blann hit the ball and he called two. On the second run, Waller was almost walking the second and keeper Adam Bowler sensed a run out chance and had a shy at the stumps. He missed and the ball flew down the Broadwater Green slope to the boundary.

I knew Broadwater had won but I had to work out how many runs were scored on that last ball.

As they had completed two runs before the ball had crossed the boundary it counted as six.

There was one other of moment I was not proud off, but luckily I don’t think anyone noticed. In the second innings, a run out attempt saw the ball hit the stumps and go off to somewhere a fielder wasn’t backing up. The first thing that came into my head was David Lloyd screaming ‘BUZZERS!’. My natural instinct saw me take a couple of steps towards the ball before I realised what I was doing. I slinked back to my position at square leg with minimal embarrassment.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable game played in the best possible spirit. If all games are like this I am going to enjoy this umpiring lark, but something tells me they won’t all be as low key as this.

Up next, Haywards Heath v Goring in the Sussex Cricket League Division 3 on May 14.”

Follow @MarKSDunford (twitter) or Sussexcricketumpire (Instagram)

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