After the match, which was won by Pakistan when Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis demolished England's lower order in the final eight overs, it was revealed that the umpires - Ken Palmer and John Hampshire - had changed the original ball during the lunch- break.
However, the issue as to whether the ball had been replaced because of foul play or natural causes was clouded when the International Cricket Council's match referee, the former West Indies wicketkeeper, Deryck Murray, declined to make any other comment than to confirm the umpires' action. Even by the ICC's standards of inertia and flatulence, this just about takes the biscuit.
The umpires refused to comment because they are prohibited from doing so under ICC regulations. Intikhab Alam, the Pakistani team manager, said that the ball had been changed because it had become soft during normal play, but it seems that Messrs Palmer and Hampshire acted under Law 42 governing unfair play.
Paragraph five of Law 42 states that any action (such as rubbing the ball on the ground, or applying artificial substances) to alter the condition of the ball shall result in the umpires changing it for one that was in similar condition before the contravention.
As Intikhab was informed of the ball change during the lunch interval, and would certainly have been informed of the reason, it positively demands an unequivocal ICC statement today. Pakistan were either guilty of sharp practice, or they were not. If they were not, this pathetic veil of silence does them no favours at all.
The thinly veiled suggestions that the violent late swing achieved by Wasim and Waqar this summer was not entirely down to natural talent gathered further momentum after the tourists' clinched the Test series at The Oval. Micky Stewart, the England team manager, praised the Pakistani bowlers for their 'high-class' performances, but declined to make a straightforward statement declaring his satisfaction with their methods. In fairness, it should be pointed out that the ball in the Test matches was regularly inspected and never replaced, and that Wasim and Waqar were able to produce devastating spells with a new ball as well as an old one.
Ironically enough, the ball that the umpires brought out with them after lunch yesterday propelled England from a position of comparative comfort to a three-run defeat. England, chasing 205 for victory, were 142 for 5 with 18 overs remaining, but once Allan Lamb was dismissed for 55, Wasim and Waqar - as they have been doing all summer - blew away the tail.
Until yesterday, the Texaco Trophy had had everything bar excitement, but while two-day one-day matches are never entirely satisfactory affairs, the most essential component of this type of cricket - a breathless finish - more than compensated what remained of the crowd for Saturday's on-off hokey- cokey.
Given what they had to achieve in the final eight overs, Pakistan's victory was an improbable one. However, given the two bowlers they had to bowl them, it was almost routine. Against anyone else, England's insurance policy of playing 11 batsmen who have scored first-class hundreds would have paid out, but not when Wasim and Waqar are in the small print.
England required only 31 from the final 48 deliveries with four wickets in hand, but Ramiz Raja - leading the tourists because Javed Miandad and Salim Malik were off the field injured - had reserved his two fast bowlers for just this sort of emergency, and England were still four runs short when Waqar ripped out the last man, Richard Illingworth, with the second ball of the final over.
England resumed yesterday requiring 198 from all but two of the 50 overs the match had been reduced to, in much better batting conditions than Saturday, and the problems they encountered before lunch had nothing to do with Wasim and Waqar.
Graeme Hick might not totally agree, given that one ball from Waqar singed his helmet at around 90 mph, but the four wickets that fell were shared by Aqib Javed and Aamir Sohail. For Ramiz to risk Aamir was a touching act of faith, given that his left- arm spin had gone for 34 off three overs in the previous game at Trent Bridge.
However, after Aqib had removed Smith with his second delivery, and then bowled Neil Fairbrother with a fast leg break, Aamir first enticed Ian Botham down the pitch to have him stumped, and then induced Hick to drag on a wide one. Botham, who had struck the first three deliveries of England's innings for four on Saturday, eventually made only 28 more off his next 66.
During lunch, when the soup hit the fan, the referee agreed with the umpires' recommendation that the ball be changed, but 30 more runs came from Lamb and Richard Blakey before the wicket that effectively opened the door for Wasim and Waqar.
Lamb, having just passed 4,000 one-day runs for England, went for an expansive sweep against Mushtaq Ahmed, got a thin edge on to his pads, and the ball floated obligingly upwards for wicketkeeper Moin Khan to take the catch. It was a thoroughly deserved wicket for Mushtaq, whose leg-spin yesterday (and for much of the summer) was more of a spell cast than a spell bowled.
So it then boiled down to 31 from eight overs of Wasim and Waqar, and England were not up to it. Blakey's highly unconvincing 25 ended when Waqar dislodged his off stump, and in his penultimate over, Wasim dismissed Chris Lewis, to a blinding catch at short leg, and Phillip DeFreitas to a blind grope to short cover.
One over to go, five runs to win, and after Dermot Reeve pinched a single off the first ball of it, Waqar's second delivery uprooted Illingworth's leg stump. It was a good ball, but the question is, how did the original ball become a bad one?
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