FORMER England international wicketkeeper/batsman Phil Mustard completed the unusual feat of playing and umpiring in Minor Counties cricket in the same season this week.

Mustard played first-class cricket for 15 years with Durham and Gloucestershire and played ten One Day and two T20 internationals during an illustrious career.

After he left Gloucestershire just before the start of the season Mustard signed to play T20 cricket for Northumberland but during the winter he set his sights on developing a second career in cricket as an umpire.

Having started umpiring schools and club matches while he was still playing, Mustard has now joined the ECB’s National Panel of umpires who stand in county Second XI, Minor Counties and university matches.

Mustard made his Minor Counties umpiring bow in Cambridgeshire’s drawn championship match against Norfolk at March this week, just four weeks after he made a one-off and final playing appearance for Northumberland in their T20 double-header against Cumberland at Jesmond.

“I had retired from playing at the beginning of the year to concentrate on umpiring full-time but then I got an email from Northumberland saying they were having a Family Fun Day for the Cumberland T20s,” Mustard said.

“I looked at my diary and I wasn’t umpiring so I had a free weekend so I had a game with Northumberland. It was just a one-off appearance but I see umpiring as my future. I have umpired matches for about three or four years while I have been playing and had days off.

“It’s something that I have thought about for some time but when you are playing you can’t really commit yourself to it.

“I still enjoy playing but I have decided to give umpiring a bit of a go. I am on the National Panel which is like a reserve Reserve List for the first-class panel.

“This is an important year for me. I’ve got about four county Second XI matches coming up, I stood in my first Minor Counties match at March this week, which got rained off on the last day unfortunately, and I’m also down to umpire Norfolk again against Buckinghamshire in August.

“The next month or so is going to be quite a busy period for me because I also umpire in Premier League cricket up here in the North East and as much midweek cricket as I can.”

As a newly-retired player, Mustard is still feeling his way as an umpire but he is enjoying his new challenge.

“The Cambridgeshire match was only the second three-day match I have stood in. I did a Loughborough MCCU match last year when I stood with Graham Lloyd. It was high-scoring with not many wickets falling so I didn’t have to make many decisions,” he said.

“There are different regulations for Minor Counties cricket to first-class cricket so that takes some getting used to but it was a fantastic experience.”

Away from cricket Mustard works part-time for sports equipment manufacturers New Balance and as an ambassador for an energy company but his umpiring remains his priority even though, in the short-term at least, it is not financially rewarding.

“It is quite a tough challenge financially because you turn down a good salary on a Saturday to play for £35-a-day as an umpire,” he said. “When you have a mortgage and kids it’s not easy. But I’m looking at the long term.”