Howzat! Umpire stands in top Gulf matches

CRICKET’S youngest top-level umpire from Hartlepool has jetted out to the Middle East to officiate in a prestigious event.

Michael Gough, 31, pulled on the white jacket after hanging up his bat as a player.

And, after a successful season in action, he has been selected by cricket chiefs to umpire a four-day match in Abu Dhabi.

The match pits the reigning county cricket champions Nottinghamshire against the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club).

It serves as the curtain-raiser for the new domestic English cricket season.

Michael will also umpire a game in the Gulf state involving his former county side, Durham.

He said: “It is very much a trial and gives the lads the opportunity to play some night cricket under decent weather. It is the first time I have umpired abroad, so I am looking forward to it.

“The MCC are always well respected wherever they go and no expense is spared.”

Michael, a top-level umpire for three years, will stay at the luxurious Yas Island, which was built to host the country’s Formula 1 circuit.

“He will also umpire a Twenty20 event featuring his old side Durham – but insists he will remain impartial!

Michael said: “I know a lot of the guys from the time I was there. I’ve got a good relationship with the lads but as soon as I step out onto the field there is a lot of respect between both parties.”

Michael, who lives in the Bishop Cuthbert area of Hartlepool, qualified as an umpire after playing for Durham County Cricket Club for six years until 2003. He was, and remains, the game’s youngest professional official.

Michael, who went to English Martyrs school, said: “I enjoy what I do and it’s good to still be involved.

“It’s great being involved in championship games and the Twenty20s always get big crowds and a great atmosphere.”

Michael has officiated at some of the country’s top grounds including Lords and Old Trafford.

His next big ambition is to umpire an international match.