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‘A legend’: cricket mourns death of ex-umpire Rudi Koertzen in car crash

The cricket world has been paying tribute to Rudi Koertzen, the South African umpire famous for his long, slow finger of fate upon giving a player out, after he died in a car crash aged 73.

A hugely popular umpire on the global circuit, Koertzen officiated in 331 international matches during an 18-year career – a record at the time and one that has since been broken by Aleem Dar of Pakistan – before his retirement in 2010.

News of Koertzen’s death broke on Tuesday morning when South Africa’s men emerged for the first morning of their four-day warmup match against England Lions in Canterbury wearing black armbands. “Koertzen’s status as a legend of the game will live on for ever,” Cricket South Africa said in a statement.

According to reports in South Africa, the former umpire was one of four people killed in a head-on collision while driving back from Cape Town to his home in Despatch, Eastern Cape, after a golf weekend with friends.

Dar, who like Koertzen is one of three ICC elite umpires to stand in more than 100 Tests, told ESPNCricinfo: “It is a very big loss foremost for his family and then for South Africa and cricket.

“I stood in so many games with him. He was not only very good as an umpire but also an excellent colleague, always very cooperative on field and also always willing to help off the field. Because of the way he was, he was also well respected by players.”

Kumar Sangakkara, the great Sri Lankan batter, was among the former players who shared their thoughts, tweeting: “Saddened at the tragic loss of Rudi Koertzen. What a wonderful friend and umpire. Honest, forthright and loved the game. Shared many a beer at the bar talking cricket with him. RIP my friend.”

As well as his trademark slow raising of the finger that prolonged the agony for batters and added to the theatre, Koertzen was well known to supporters in the UK as the umpire who ceremoniously removed the bails at the end of the 2005 Ashes.

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Koertzen, who worked in the construction industry before becoming a full-time umpire in 1993, signed off from top-level officiating during the 2011 Indian Premier League but still stood in matches for his local club, Despatch CC.

A statement from the club read: “A legend in his own right passed away this morning and will definitely leave a great void in the cricket world. We want to express our heartfelt sympathy and empathy to Uncle Rudi Koertzen’s family and loved ones.”

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