Pakistan protest is applauded back home

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The scenes from The Oval were greeted with fury in Pakistan, where cricket is the number one sportand a badge of national pride. Millions of fans were staying up late to watch the match live on television and saw the drama as it unfolded. But such was the controversy it stirred that other television channels cut to the scenes from The Oval.

"I am with some friends here and my friend Riaz just said that whenever a good young Pakistani bowler comes along he is always accused of these sorts of things by the Western nations," said Nasir Malik, a 50-year-old journalist in Rawalpindi. "We are inclined to agree. Either it is a problem with his action or it is ball tampering. It was the same with Shoaib Akhtar and with another of our bowlers and both of them were cleared."

Fans on internet chatrooms were more forthright. "When [England fast bowler] Simon Jones and company were reversing it in last year's Ashes as soon as the 35th over, the whole world was clapping their superb technique. As soon as a Pakistani reverses it, at once it is called tampering," said one fan.

Much of the criticism focused on the umpire Darrell Hair. "This could prove to be a bridge too far for Hair - I don't think he is on strong ground here the way it has been done," said Tareeq Jamshed. "You can't win: the moment Pakistan have any initiative Hair will try his utmost to stop it," said another fan. "How much longer can this go on for? It's a complete disgrace."

Pakistani fans widely applauded their team for refusing to return to the field after tea as a protest. "Better to save our self-respect and dignity than a Test match," said one.

But there was anger when Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistani Cricket Board (PCB) official, tried to defuse the situation by saying the Pakistani playershad made their point and were willing to resume play. "Spineless PCB! Shaharyar Khan, you are pathetic," said one furious fan.

One fan perhaps summed up the incident best by saying: "What on earth is going on? This whole episode is making UN diplomacy look organised."

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