England and Kiwis throw their support behind controversial umpire Hair as he returns to Test duty at Old Trafford

By Chris Foy

Darrell Hair's return to Test cricket at Old Trafford this week may have attracted widespread condemnation in Asia, but yesterday England and New Zealand both offered their support to the controversial Australian umpire.

The 55-year-old was formally reinstated by the International Cricket Council earlier this year to end a 20-month exile following the ball-tampering row at The Oval in 2006.

Having effectively been accused of cheating when they were penalised five runs, Inzamam ul-Haq's PAkistan forfeited the match. Amid the subsequent turmoil which rocked the game, Hair offered to resign in return for a $500,000 pay-off.

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Darrell Hair

New balls please: umpire Darrell Hair looks for a replacement ball as England seamer Matthew Hoggard (left) takes an interest

That offer was publicly revealed and rejected by the ICC, and the governing body - under pressure from Pakistan - restricted Hair to officiating in second-tier international matches. He responded by taking them to court, claiming racial discrimination, but abandoned the case after seven days.

After moving back to Australia, the veteran of 76 Tests took part in a mentoring course and rehabilitation work aimed at refining his occasionally abrasive manner.

His reward for such behind-the-scenes work and a dogged refusal to let his career drift to a low-key conclusion will come when he stands in the second npower Test — alongside compatriot Simon Taufel — starting tomorrow.

Reacting to Hair's comeback, New Zealand coach John Bracewell said: "We've had Darrell heaps of times and we've never had a problem with him. We've always thought that he's a pretty good umpire. We were just told he would be umpiring here and we're happy with that."

England spinner Monty Panesar was equally positive about the appointment, adding: "He is a respected umpire. It is good to see someone as highly respected as him coming back into international cricket (but) it is not a talking point for us."

Hair has admitted that after so much time out of the international game, he may not be able to cope with the demands of the job. There could be a temptation for players to put him under pressure, but both sides have rejected that possibility.

New Zealand will be monitoring Tim Southee before naming their team as the rookie fast bowler picked up a virus at Lord's and has "done some pretty serious throwing up" according to Bracewell.

The Black Caps coach is happy with the cover available in his squad, but admitted that the resources at England's disposal are awe-inspiring.

Asked if the hosts' decision to ignore Steve Harmison, at the ground where is most effective, surprised him, Bracwell said: 'England have got some pretty good depth in their bowling, with plenty of guys that you are not even using who are pretty talented.

"We were pretty impressed with the pace of (Graham) Onions in the Lions game, we've seen (Sajid) Mahmood and (Liam) Plunkett in the last 12-18 months and we're pretty impressed with them as well. Then you've got Simon Jones lurking around and getting wickets too. He looked sharp last night on TV, so you're not really short of resources are you?"

And that's not to mention the convalescing Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard, the recalled Chris Tremlett or the out-of-favour Harmison - all keeping the current Test trio on their toes. Bracewell is right, riches indeed.

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