Darrell Hair tribunal, 2nd day October 2, 2007

A legal joust

Ivo Tennant in London
Ivo Tennant looks at the men conducting the cross-examinations in the Darrell Hair hearing

Robert Griffiths: lyrical Celtic cadences © 4-5 Grays Inn
The legal case that Darrell Hair is bringing against the ICC in the Central London Employment Tribunal is not really about the beefcake umpire at all. As when John Humphreys comes up against Jeremy Paxman, so it is a joust between the QCs: Robert Griffiths, with his lyrical Celtic cadences, and Michael Beloff, all Etonian assurance and zealous persistence in his cross-examination.

Both are great cricket lovers as well as top Oxford-educated lawyers who once shared the same chambers in Gray's Inn Square with Cherie Booth QC. They are friends, although that is not always apparent from their sparring at the hearing. Beloff, representing the ICC and, indeed, the chairman of its disciplinary Code of Commission, did not care to be interrupted when he was cross-examining Hair; Griffiths took a playful delight in so doing.

One compelling aspect of their performances - both could have excelled on the stage - is that they, rather than the chairman of the tribunal, decide when lunch and stumps are called. The exception came at 4 p.m. yesterday when Beloff was keen to wrap up his cross-examination of Hair and return, refreshed, on the morrow. He told the chairman that he had to be back in his chambers by five o'clock.

On this occasion, though, he was instructed to get back in his box. Another 15 minutes, he was told, but evidently he had enough, for he was addressing Mr Hair as 'Mr Speed' shortly before close of play. He was last seen trundling a great bag, presumably of legal papers, down Kingsway for his next engagement. Earlier - and to the surprise of the assembled cricket correspondents - he had posed a strange question to Hair. "Is it rare for an umpire to write a book?" he asked.

Michael Beloff: all Etonian assurance and zealous persistence © Brian Micklethwait
Beloff, it appeared, had not read the autobiography of one Dickie Bird. Or should that be 22 autobiographies? As the great Man of Barnsley will willingly tell you himself, truly without expectation of contradiction, "it were t'best selling cricket book of all time." Being an umpire or Premiership referee is a lucrative business these days when it comes to penning your memoirs. Beloff had, though, read Hair's memoirs and picked him up on his use of English - or did the pen belong to the umpire's ghost-writer? - by asking him why he had described Murali's bowling action as "diabolical." Is that, he asked the umpire, who took the stand all day, what you call a bowler when you no-ball him?"

Griffiths' chance for cross-examination of ICC witnesses will come. It was as well that this was not yesterday, for his voice was going. He is a distant relative of Tony Lewis, the former England captain, with whom he holidays in West Indies. On the eve of the World Cup final he threw a party in Barbados and the photograph in the following day's edition of The Nation depicted him and David Gower in celebratory mood. "Gower and Griffiths enjoy a champagne moment" read the caption. Wales, cricket, the Caribbean, Eton, Cherie Booth: it is an intoxicating mix.