A model Australian

The best performance of the second Test at Kingsmead may have come from an Australian. The best century of the three seen so far has come from Herschelle Gibbs, admittedly, and Makhaya Ntini was magnificent in claiming his second successive five-wicket haul against Brian Lara’s men, but the Aussie was better.

Even Jacques Kallis and Gary Kirsten were outperformed by the man most people won’t have noticed much, if at all. Even batsmen with a hundred to their name play false shots and the most fastidious bowlers produce no balls, long hops and half volleys from time to time.

But so far, umpire Simon Taufel has enjoyed the perfect match. He hasn’t just been faultless, he’s been inspired. Two lbw decisions appeared “dead” to the naked eye but half a dozen television replays confirmed that Taufel had got them dead right, not “dead” at all.

Two “catches” by the wicket-keepers of both sides could easily have been given out – there were clear deflections – but Taufel picked pad and shoulder on both occasions in the fraction of a second he has to make the decision. He was also courteous and firm without ever invading the players’ space.

He may be young but that doesn’t account for his success. Dedication and training does. Apart from practising in nets and doing eye exercises to improve his vision, Taufel is a committed physical exerciser because physical fitness plays a massive role in mental sharpness. At the end of an exhausting, seven-hour third day he was back on the field 20 minutes after the close of play running laps of the ground and stretching the day’s endeavors out of his aching muscles.

If the ICC stubbornly refuses to ‘score’ umpires’ performances in a publicly accountable manner leading to a performance related panel then, at the very least, there should be a reward scheme for excellence. It’s no coincidence that one man has made all the mistakes so far in this series and the other has been outstanding.

Congratulations, Mr Taufel. You are a credit to your profession.

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