England. . . . . . . . . . . . .390
WE CAN rest assured that the dentists' revolt will not affect anyone connected with the International Cricket Conference, which yesterday confirmed its reputation as a body without a tooth in its head. The ICC's method of dealing with a basket of dirty laundry is to reach for the white-wash setting.
Yesterday's verdict on the unsavoury events of Monday was almost as easy to predict as the match ending in a draw. Aqib Javed was fined 50 per cent of his match fee (a piffling pounds 150 equating to a quarter of the sum levied on David Gower for an aeroplane ride), while Javed Miandad escaped without so much as a ticking-off for his part in the affair, which amounted to spotting a fire and wading in with a gallon of four-star.
In a statement issued by Conrad Hunte, the ICC match referee, Javed was 'encouraged to ensure that his players maintain the spirit of the game'. So too, bewilderingly, was Graham Gooch, who was sitting in the dressing-room while Javed, Aqib and one or two other visiting fielders were embroiled in a furious argument with umpire Roy Palmer.
Hunte may have plucked out the short straw here, in that he was only standing in on Monday while the official referee, Clyde Walcott, was away in London for an ICC meeting, but he has clearly slipped smoothly into standard ICC procedure. It was the equivalent of fining Ronald Biggs for boarding a train without a valid ticket.
Hunte studied a BBC video of the affair, which revolved around three consecutive short-pitched deliveries from Aqib to Devon Malcolm. The first one hit Malcolm on the helmet as the batsman (if such a description is applicable to Malcolm) ducked into what was adjudged a bouncer, and, ironically, it should have been the last ball of the over.
Palmer, who played his cricket in an era when umpires were merely required to count their marbles rather than try to hang on to them, had actually lost count, and when Aqib then ran through the crease to let Malcolm have another short one from closer to 19 yards than 22, Palmer's no-ball call was followed by a warning for intimidatory bowling.
Aqib's eighth and final delivery was another short one, which prompted Palmer into a rueful shake of the head before handing back the bowler's sweater and floppy hat. At that point, Aqib flipped. His angry gesticulations were intended to convey that Palmer had thrust the equipment back at him in a discourteous manner, and Javed, arms rotating like a windmill, joined in.
Javed, who had orchestrated the scenes of protest that followed each of the three balls, finally had to be pushed away from the umpire by Salim Malik. If Gooch had behaved in that way, he would not have emerged from any pavilion again as captain of England.
The next breach of the ICC's code of conduct came from the Pakistani manager, Intikhab Alam, who not only broke the rule prohibiting public comment, but also claimed - incorrectly - that Palmer had 'thrown' Aqib's sweater back to him. Intikhab was 'severely reprimanded', which is presumably a heftier punishment than Javed's 'firmly encouraged'.
In a written statement, Hunte said: 'The umpire was perfectly within his rights to interpret the bowling as he did, and there was a clear violation by Aqib Javed. Mr Hunte' (said Mr Hunte) 'considers him (Malcolm) to be one of the worst number elevens in the game today.' Malcolm is forbidden to comment under the code, but he is not likely to be consulting his lawyer on this one.
The statement concluded: 'The match referee has studied video tape of the particular over . . . and the umpire handing the player his sweater, and believes that the umpire acted in a proper manner. The behaviour of some members of the Pakistan team crowding the umpire and remonstrating with him was . . . not within the spirit of the game.'
Breaching the spirit, as well as the laws, of the game, is one of eight clauses in the ICC code, and between them, Aqib, Javed and Intikhab could justifiably have been arraigned for breaking seven of them. If the blue touch paper, as we feared it might, has now been lit for this series, the ICC has decided to follow the firework code rather than their own, and stand well clear.
Intikhab, remarkably, broke the code again last night when he fired off a further volley at the post-match press conference. The Pakistani manager declined to alter his Monday night view that Aqib's bowling had been fair, or that Palmer threw the bowler's sweater.
'Having seen the video, I will not change my opinion,' he said, 'and do not take back a word. I only had to look at the expression on his (Palmer's) face. How would you feel if someone snatched the cap out of your hand?' Unless the BBC gave him a video of Love Story by mistake, the services of an optician are seriously required.
The Pakistanis were even granted clemency on their appalling over-rate because, would you believe, Hunte decided that no- balls did not count when it came to totting up the shortfall. As a result, the visitors were fined pounds 120 per man instead of something closer to pounds 300, which left Aqib with thirty quid still in his pocket.
As for the cricket yesterday, the match ended in a draw and a major row failed to develop, not even when David Shepherd threw Malcolm his sweater at the end of an over. Malcolm, who is as good a fielder as he is a batsman, dropped it, and neither did his bowling suggest that he will be around for the next Test at Headingley.
After Aamir Sohail, whose idea of having a careful look at the bowling is not to hit the first one for six, had whacked his seventh straight to cover, Pakistan's batsmen had what amounted to a gentle, pressure-free net. The proceedings ended when the tourists declared at 239 for 5.
Ramiz Raja made a pleasant 88 before becoming one of Chris Lewis's three victims, and Gooch, having deprived Tim Munton of a second Test wicket by dropping a routine slip catch, took his total of victims to five in the match with his gentle swingers. The spectators paid pounds 5 each, but there were so few of them that the gate money would barely have covered Aqib's fine.
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