SEZ LES - 'Ketts' gets it right

WE have the country's top football referee in this region - and now we have the country's top umpire as well.

The nation's county cricketers have voted Sheffield's Richard Kettleborough the top umpire around - for the second year running.

The man they call 'Kett' or 'Ketts' when he's back on 'home turf' at Abbeydale Park is following in the illustrious footsteps of two other South Yorkshire cricketing figures who got to the top in the umpiring world, Dickie Bird and John Hampshire.

Both were Test match umpires and so too is Richard, recently back after an eventful first ever Test match out in sweltering Sri Lanka. Umpires can stand for years and not be involved in one, let alone two, of the experiences Richard had.

Firstly there was the still-rare feat of a triple hundred, scored by West Indies Chris Gayle, and, later on, the less pleasant task of West Indies' spinner Shane Shillingford being reported for a suspect action, what you and me would refer to as 'throwing'.

All should add to the rich tapestry of stories and anecdotes which inevitably build up around umpires and cricket across the years.

He relayed a few as guest speaker at Sheffield Cricket Lovers Society meeting on Monday at Abbeydale where he played club cricket for Sheffield Collegiate (helping them win the National Club Championship in 2000).

He played for Yorkshire where his first century inspired a win against Essex and none other than Graham Gooch told him it was one of the finest innings he'd ever seen.

Off he went to play for Middlesex where he came across the "toughest" cricketer he ever played with or against - former Aussie opener Justin Langer.

And he recalled being out in the middle against Hampshire when this young Middlesex batsman walked out for his debut to face a West Indian quickie.

The first ball glances off the surprised batsman's helmet and goes for four leg byes, the second one he nicks behind. As he waddles off past Richard he offers up... "that's a jolly sight quicker than anything I got at Radley College."

It was Andrew Strauss!

Encouraged after a chat with John Hampshire, Richard decided to look into taking up umpiring.

In 2002 he was on the first class reserve list and in 2005, aged just 33, became one of the youngest ever on the first class panel. It was onto the ICC International Panel in 2008, probably still recalling a spot of advice about what an umpires needs... "a thick skin and broad shoulders."

His rise has been rapid, you might say meteoric, and none other than Shane Warne described him as one of the top four umpires in the world.

He's umpired one day internationals over here and took the U19 World Cup Final in New Zealand a year ago before that memorable day last November in Sri Lanka, the pinnacle, that Test match debut.

And if you think umpires get a nice, relaxing 10 minutes peace and quiet beforehand, just the two of them in their room contemplating the day ahead then think again - there were about 11 in that hot, little room in Galle, ranging from Match referee and tv umpire etc through to security officer and dressing room attendant.

Not quite England in April either... terrific humidity required an entire change of clothing after every session.

Seems he did well though. Every appeal and every single decision made is logged by the match referee and he got an incredible 66 right out of 67. And all 11 appeals checked by the TV umpire under the Decision Review System he called correctly.

It's back to the sub-continent for the World Cup next month. And I suspect we'll be seeing a good deal more of Richard Kettleborough.

They say things come in threes and three goalkeeping tales arose from last weekend.

A football watcher told me that in over 60 years he'd never seen both goalkeepers sent off until last Saturday's Harrogate Town v Nuneaton clash.

Close on that was word from a bloke who saw the FC United of Manchester goalkeeper score with a wind-aided clearance at Retford. And even rarer than that was a goalkeeper scoring at water polo - a particularly unlikely feat.

It was by 10-year-old Connor Boler for New Whittington Warriors who hurled the ball from one end to the other (and the nets aren't very big) in a schools water polo match at Eckington Baths.

Connor cleaned up too. His brother, probably thinking he was on safe ground, had promised him a tenner if he scored this season! Hope he's paid up.

Wonder if the West Ham fan who caught Avram Grant's scarf last Saturday will throw it him back tomorrow?

Haven't West Ham made themselves a laughing stock over the handling of their manager's situation?

Not that anyone down Bramall Lane way will be extending any sympathy after the appalling Tevez affair.

Wonder 'ow the 'ammers will wriggle out of this one?

Got a view? Leave a comment below.

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