Cricket: Board denies Oslear claims

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THE Test and County Cricket Board was yesterday laying in stores for a long winter's siege. Allan Lamb, Pakistan, Don Oslear and Sarfraz Nawaz have been crossed off their Christmas card list.

The umpire Oslear has reopened the ball-tampering furore by declaring he had been removed from the first-class umpires' list because he dared to give evidence in Lamb's favour in court last week, a claim denied by the TCCB. Lamb was defending the libel action brought by Sarfraz after Lamb had alleged the former Pakistan fast bowler had demonstrated the ball-tampering technique when they both played for Northamptonshire in the Seventies.

The action was withdrawn by Sarfraz after Lamb acknowledged that he had never seen the Pakistani cheat in a match. The Board may have thought that the affair was over, but Oslear intends that the memory will linger on.

Oslear insisted in court that the ball changed in the one-day international between England and Pakistan at Lord's in 1992 had been scarred by illegal means, as Lamb also alleged. Oslear was the reserve umpire for the match and yesterday promised 'further startling revelations', adding: 'I knew when I went into the witness box it would cost me my job. I thought I would be distraught at having to pack up umpiring but instead I feel a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I am not going to be frightened by these people.'

Yesterday's TCCB's reply was cold. 'Don Oslear was advised in a letter sent on 3 January 1993 that his retirement would take effect from 3 March 1994, his 65th birthday. It is not true that Mr Oslear's retirement had anything to do with recent court proceedings.'

The statement added that an umpire would be brought out of retirement only if there were not enough qualified candidates. 'There is a strong list of 17 candidates and only two vacancies for 1994.'

Oslear countered: 'This matter is nowhere near finished.' It was a common expectation on the county circuit last summer that Oslear was in his final season and that he was planning a book. One mystery Oslear might be able to clear up is what exactly happened to the ball immediately after the Lord's match. The Board has refused to produce it but it is supposed to be locked away in the desk of the chief executive, Alan Smith.

There seems little likelihood, however, of a breach in fixtures between England and Pakistan, who may next meet in a Test series in 1996, for the very good reason that matches between the two countries are acrimonious, controversial and great box-office.