Slimline Shepherd hops off into the sunset

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The Independent Online

This is because the superstitious Devonian umpire is renowned for standing on one leg whenever the total 111 - known as a Nelson - or any multiple thereof appears on the scoreboard of a match in which he is officiating.

There is a touch of irony in the fact that in this, the last of his 20 years as a distinguished international umpire, he would appear to have won a long-lasting personal battle with his weight.

That battle was probably not helped by Shepherd's freely confessed attitude towards training during his days as a Gloucestershire cricketer from 1965-79.

When, for example, the captain Tony Brown dragged his squad out for some compulsory cross-country they discovered (by hiding behind a hedge) that the reason Shepherd always looked so cool at the end was because he hitched a ride on a milk float for a significant part of the run.

But yesterday, under the brilliant sunshine at The Oval, it was evident that his once ample girth has shrunk, although thankfully his face still bears the ruddy glow of a healthy outdoor life - something which will not diminish in retirement with golf to play and a dog to walk down in Instow in his beloved Devon.

This was Shepherd's final one-day international, the 172nd of his distinguished career, which includes three World Cup finals.

He has also stood in 92 Tests since making his debut in 1985 and throughout that time he has conducted affairs out in the middle with diplomacy and a hint of humour.

This has ensured he has remained one of the most popular umpires in the game at all levels. "He is highly respected," said the former England captain Mike Atherton yesterday, "and the crowd love him because they see an overweight bloke with ruddy cheeks, the sort who stands in village cricket matches every week. Shep is a link for them between their level and the top of the game."

Even the hard-nosed Australians, men not given to soft-hearted sentimental gestures, all sought to shake the hand of the former Bideford Grammar School scrum-half and St Luke's College goalkeeper, and the the 64-year-old was also afforded a guard of honour by both sets of players at the end of the match. And the umpire smiled back.

Shepherd's watch...

* Began first-class umpiring: 1981

* First Test umpired: England v Australia, Old Trafford, 1-6 August, 1985

* Also officiated in: 1983 World Cup (England); 1987 World Cup (India/Pakistan); 1992 World Cup (Australia/New Zealand); 1996 World Cup (India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka) including final; 1999 World Cup (England) including the final; 2003 World Cup (South Africa) including the final.

* Test matches: 92

* One-day international matches: 172