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AXA League: Bird takes his leave in usual style

By Christopher Lyles at Headingley

14 September 1998

Warwickshire (192-5) bt Yorkshire (191-7) by 5 wkts

IT WAS highly unlikely that Dickie Bird could officiate in his last county match without becoming embroiled in some amusing incident and so it was yesterday at his beloved Headingley, where he first turned up for nets more than 50 years ago as an eager 15-year-old.

When Bradley Parker flicked Ashley Giles towards square leg, nothing seemed more certain than the batsmen cantering for a couple of easy runs. But the ball bounced before magnetically attracting itself to Bird's right knee to much hopping and fretting. The magic spray was called for and, as the right trouser leg was hoisted to much thespian grimacing, lurking thereunder were some long woolly socks and a pair of multi-coloured long-johns. Who else but the endearing Bird could find himself in such a plight? Happily he was able to resume his duties with no more than the occasional hobble as a painful reminder.

And so now there are just memories of a remarkable career which saw the son of a Barnsley coalminer reach the peak of his profession to umpire in a world record 68 Test matches.

The Yorkshire public turned up in numbers yesterday to say farewell to one of their own, and both teams formed a guard of honour as he walked out to the wicket. But there were no tears then, nor at tea when Yorkshire's president, Sir Lawrence Byford, presented him with a handsome cut-glass decanter.

And as Bird took his leave from the middle for the last time after a match in which Warwickshire won with nine balls to spare to finish AXA League runners up, so ended the last leg of his grand farewell tour of the county circuit - a tour which began in April and on which he has been able to bid adieu to all and sundry.

It was an emotional man who spoke immediately afterwards in the sanctity of the umpires' room. ``There is a lump in my throat,'' he said fighting back the tears. ``I've had a tremendous career and I am glad that it has ended here at Headingley. I've been fortunate enough to see some of the greatest players that the world has ever known and I like to think that I have had the respect of professional cricketers.''

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 14 Sep1998 - 10:52