Cricket: Officials confident of keeping order at final

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TOURNAMENT OFFICIALS are confident that their strict ticketing procedures for Sunday's World Cup final will prevent a repeat of the disturbing scenes in the semi-final at Old Trafford.

Organisers are concerned at the unrest in Manchester on Wednesday after the match was disrupted by pitch invasions and the lighting of fireworks as Pakistan closed in on their nine-wicket victory over New Zealand. The umpires, Peter Willey and Darrel Hair, were twice forced to halt the game when fireworks were set off and when, with Pakistan needing six runs for victory, hundreds of fans swarmed on to the playing area.

Perhaps the biggest concern to officials was the fact that when Saeed Anwar, seeking the winning runs, struck a cover drive that Roger Twose ran after but was forced to abandon as supporters ran on the pitch to celebrate victory.

Stephen Fleming, New Zealand's captain, immediately urged cricketing authorities to act and warned that a disaster could happen if action is not taken in the near future.

World Cup officials, however, are banking on the unique atmosphere of Lord's and their strict ticket sales policy to provide a far more relaxed and controlled atmosphere for the finale to the tournament.

"We were very disappointed with what happened at Old Trafford, and it was not something we welcomed. But Lord's is totally different to any other ground because the spectator profile is different," said the event manager, Michael Browning. "Nearly 90 per cent of the tickets were pre- sold some time ago, so I don't think we're going to get a particularly large contingent of either set of fans.

"Our policy for tickets to the final was restricted to two per application, and there was a big demand from all sorts of people, no matter who they support."

In addition, a third of the tickets were only available to MCC members and a third to sponsors and hospitality guests.

Despite calls from numerous high-profile players for greater security, there are no plans for an appeal to the crowd from the two opposing captains. Browning said: "We don't think it's the captain's responsibility to get involved in ground security and crowd behaviour."

He said there was no malice in the invasions, just enthusiasm. "We just wish they would wait until the players got off the field, so they don't feel threatened. While we recognise it's just exuberance it's not welcome."

Security for Sunday's match is being kept firmly under wraps with officials refusing to disclose whether provisions have increased following the progress to the final of Pakistan, whose fans are among the most enthusiastic in the tournament.