Cricket: Bird calls time early on Test

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West Indies 438 and 153-4

Pakistan 326

Match drawn

PAKISTAN'S Test series against the West Indies came to an unsatisfactory and controversial end here yesterday when the English umpire Dickie Bird unilaterally abandoned the last day's play without consulting his colleague, Steve Bucknor.

Bird, 60, made his decision after heavy overnight and early morning rain had saturated the outfield. But it was taken half an hour before the scheduled start, by which time the ground was bathed in bright sunshine. The decision surprised Bucknor, the Jamaican who stood in last year's World Cup final in Australia.

According to the ICC match referee, Raman Subba Row, Bucknor could not be located at the time. Subba Row said he and Bird talked to the management of both teams and Ken Isaacs, president of the Antigua Cricket Association, before Bird officially called play off. 'Everyone agreed it was a common-sense decision to call it off early rather than go on for the rest of the day and wait for a possible start after tea,' he said. Subba Row claimed that they had searched for Bucknor for 'about half an hour'.

In fact Bucknor was in the press box, having told journalists he and Bird had agreed to a further inspection of the ground after lunch, when Subba Row appeared to announce the abandonment. Bucknor seemed understandably bemused but said only, 'What can I say? The decision has already been made.'

He did reveal, however, that he would be clarifying his position in a letter to the West Indies Cricket Board of Control. The result of the match, which was clearly heading for a draw, was clearly not affected but the manner of its abandonment embarrassed Bucknor and called into question the role of the match referee in such circumstances.

According to the laws, the umpires 'shall be the sole judges of the fitness of the ground, weather and light for play'. But it was obvious that Subba Row had involved himself in the decision, which will, quite apart from anything else, be seen to have been taken by two Englishmen with no knowledge of local conditions and as a snub to the eminent West Indian umpire. It need not have been so.

THIRD TEST (St John's, Antigua): West Indies 438 (C L Hooper 178no, R B Richardson 52; Waqar Younis 5-104) and 153 for 4 (D L Haynes 64no). Pakistan 326 (Inzamam-ul-Haq 123, Asif Mujtaba 59, Basit Ali 56). Match drawn.

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