Harold Dennis “Dickie” Bird umpired in 66 Test Matches over 23 years.
His first Test coming at his home ground, Headingley, in 1973 and his last of all at his equally beloved Lord’s, when England played India in 1996. Trusted for his impeccably sound judgement, his calm and fair manner on the field, his cheeky humour, and his ability to take a joke as well as make one, Dickie Bird was loved by players and spectators alike. But not by the weather. Rain and bad light seemed to follow him around at times, water once even seeping up around his feet as a drainage failure disrupted a Test in Leeds.
So it was perhaps with a correct sense of occasion that the weather delayed the start of his last ever Test by 30 minutes. When play did begin, Bird walked out on to the field to find both teams lined up in a guard of honour and the Ground rising in a huge ovation; the occasion bringing a not entirely unprecedented tear to his eye. But the tears didn’t impede his vision during the first over of the match. Just five balls in, Javagal Srinath trapped England captain Mike Atherton lbw and Bird’s finger shot up without hesitation. It had been Atherton who organised Bird’s emotional reception on the Ground. “Sorry mate, it were plumb!” he shrugged as Atherton walked off.
The match was notable for the debuts of two young Indian batsmen - Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Bird made an early intervention, turning down an appeal for a catch against Ganguly, correctly spotting that the ball had deflected off the young batsman’s shoulder. Ganguly went on to make 131 on debut, Dravid almost matching him with 95. The last decision Bird was called upon to make was to give Jack Russell out, lbw to Ganguly in England’s second innings. Soon after, the match ended in a draw: “Well, that’s it, Dickie lad. Finished. Over and out” he muttered on his way from the field. Gone, but not forgotten, Bird remains a regular visitor to Lord’s, and was invited to ring the five minute bell on the first day of the England v New Zealand Test in 2015.