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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Bowden breaks the mould
Billy Bowden signals a six in his own inimitable style as Shane Warne returns to his mark at the World Cup
Billy Bowden signals a six in his own inimitable style
Umpire Billy Bowden will make his Test bow on English soil when England host South Africa in Leeds.

And with the New Zealander in attendance, Headingley's record of hosting some of cricket's most eye-catching Test performances is sure to ring true again.

For Ian Botham's heroics of 1981, read Bowden's histrionics in 2003.

The 40-year-old is renowned for his stylish signalling, a personal flourish to the art of umpiring that has split views in cricket.

Everything is exaggerated, with Bowden's arms and legs flailing as if he were a trapeze artist on the high wire.

A four is met by a great arc of the arm sweeping across his body as the back leg slides out, a balletic act Test Match Special's Henry Blofeld describes as fit for a "walk on part at the Opera House".

And Blowers does not stop there.

A leg-bye in the NatWest Series was greeted thus: "He taps his leg and shakes it. If it was butter it would be milk by now".

And Bowden's general joie de vivre around the stumps earns the description from TMS's wordsmith that he is "like a butterfly with bounce".

But not everybody is a fan.

Bowden's compatriot, former Test captain Martin Crowe, has been less than complimentary, describing the umpire as a "Bozo the Clown" character instead of one of the stars of the Big Top.

However, the powers that be have been impressed by what they have seen and Bowden's star is in the ascendancy.

He went to the World Cup as an unknown, but finished standing as the fourth umpire in the final.

ICC General Manager David Richardson paid tribute to the high standards Bowden maintained throughout the competition, describing him as "one of the best performers of the entire tournament".

Within a fortnight he had become the first New Zealander to be admitted to umpiring's elite panel, with ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed saying that he represented "the next generation" of umpires.

Brent Bowden's rise to fame in the white coat came about when his career was curtailed by rheumatoid arthritis.

BILLY BOWDEN FACTFILE
Born: 11 April 1963
First class debut: 1992/93
ODI debut:
NZ v Sri Lanka 1994/95
ODI matches: 42
Test debut:
NZ v Australia 1999/00
Test matches: Four
The condition started when Bowden was 21, and within two years the pain became so unbearable that his love of playing was dwindling fast and he chose to draw a close to his time in the middle.

Or so he thought.

An ad in the New Zealand Herald opened another door and Bowden was soon returning to the wicket as the man in charge.

A naturally shy character, Bowden was transformed and his ebullient style was perfect for the helter-skelter style of Max-Cricket in New Zealand.

Jumping around, a vision of nervous, twitching energy exploding at any opportunity, Bowden was winning fans and critics as quickly as he takes to make a show of any signal.

But there is method in his madness.

His joints ache through the stress of arthritis and the continual movement keeps his body fluid.

The signature crooked finger dismissal came about because of associated pain and is, according to Bowden, "50/50 reality/show".

And soreness in the arms means he rarely holds on to any jumpers or hats, tucking them under his coat instead.

Bowden makes light of the pain and be it ballet, butterflies, the Big Top or Bozo, he is a man who causes consternation and celebration in equal measure, just as he will at Headingley.





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