DateLine: 20th December 2005
With sunken, pale features, and receding hair, the grimace which Neil Mallender sported in his run-up really did make him look like a man in pain. However, his action was uncomplicated and economical, and helped him to a career which included a great Test debut and 937 First-class wickets. In his thirteenth season as a county pro, he finally won a Test cap. Under a typically murky West Yorkshire sky, he exploited helpful conditions excellently, taking 8 wickets (including 5-50 in the second innings) as Pakistan were bundled out twice (and to defeat) by Englandís seam only attack. When the sun shone on the flatter Oval pitch, Mallender found Test cricket a more complicated game, although figures of 2-93 hardly disgraced him as the entire English attack failed to match the reversing mysteries of Wasim and Waqar. He was subsequently axed from the winter tour to India and Sri Lanka, as it was felt his typically English line, length and movement would be rendered ineffective in sub-continental conditions. Although such a decision was almost Australian in its ruthlessness, it hardly seemed right that a man who had a Test bowling average of 10 wickets at 21.50 should have a Test career which lasted less than three weeks. And of course, the England squad which was chosen that winter had a torrid time. However, Mallender has found further international cricketing success post retirement. After umpiring friendly First-class matches in 1997 and 1998, he joined the Championship circuit in 1999 and made his ODI umpiring debut in the England vs. Pakistan match at Lords in June 2001. His Test debut came in October 2003 as he officiated in the First Test of the Pakistan vs. South Africa series. However, since February 2004 Mallender has only officiated on the English county circuit, although he is one of a select band to both play and officiate in Test matches. Mallender had been a Somerset player when he made his Test debut, although he both started and finished his county career at Northamptonshire. He also found a cricketing Shangri-La in New Zealand, where in ten consecutive seasons for Otago (for two of which he was captain) he took over 250 First-class wickets, at a touch over 20 apiece, as well as scoring his only First-class century. His efforts helped Otago (traditionally one of New Zealand domestic cricketís bridesmaids) win the Shell Trophy twice during his stay.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)