George leads SA’s World Cup parade

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE in Manchester

NO South African has been on the field of play during a cricket World Cup final, right? Wrong. Three have, one of them three times.

They are Zama Ndamane, Brian Jerling and Shaun George, umpires all.

No South African umpire has yet stood in a men’s World Cup final, but all of the above have crossed the boundary in the women’s equivalent.

Ndamane was part of the all-South Africa officiating team in the 2005 final between Australia and India in Centurion — umpires, scorers, referee, the lot — and Jerling stood in 2009 when England and New Zealand clashed in Sydney.

But neither Ndamane nor Jerling have anything on George, who stood in the finals in 2005 and 2013 and completed a hat-trick of sorts when he was the sole South African on the field in the World Cup final between England and India at Lord’s on July 23.

George has done duty in 85 international matches. In 22 of them the players have been women. What’s the difference?

“The major difference is the pace of play,” George said. “Women’s matches are generally slower. However the skill levels regarding bowling and batting are generally the same.

“Looking back to the 2013 women’s World Cup in India, I am encouraged to see the development and tremendous growth in batting and bowling in women’s matches.

“However the ground fielding and catching needs improvement to be on par with the men’s game.”

There are other, more subtle points of departure in cricket’s gender divide.

“Because of the pace at which women bowl the tendency was that balls are rarely going to go over the top of the stumps [which is a factor in] answering lbw appeals.”

And, like they are behind the wheel of a car, where they pay less insurance than men, women are better behaved on the field: “Men have a tendency to challenge umpires’ decisions a lot more than women.”

George played 17 first-class matches between March 1987 and January 1991, all of them on the less than pristine grounds used for Howa Bowl games.

As much as he knows his way around women’s and men’s cricket, this year’s World Cup final marked George’s debut at Lord’s.

But he will always remember “walking through the Long Room with the members applauding you as you make your way to the field”.

For a third World Cup final, nogal.

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