Afridi caught bang to rights, but Harmison also to blame

Click to follow
The Independent Online

This covered almost all the action, involving the contentious run-out of Inzamam-ul-Haq and the deliberate scuffing of the pitch by Shahid Afridi. It did not embrace the huge afternoon bang which scared the living daylights out of everybody for a moment, but only because neither the Laws of Cricket nor the ICC regulations deal with exploding gas cylinders. Yet.

If the players could not be bothered to inspect these abstruse matters - and who could blame them? - they could all have done themselves a favour by mugging up the five-year-old "Spirit of Cricket". Knowing that and adhering to it might have saved all the trouble.

Afridi, a hero for his barnstorming batting only hours earlier, was the day's biggest offender after scraping the pitch on a length with his studs. This may yet affect the ball's behaviour in the rest of the match.

He committed his folly during the 10-minute delay caused by the explosion. Afridi looked like a worried trespasser (which he was) as he glanced round furtively to check if anybody was watching, before executing a manoeuvre that may well provoke interest from the producers of Billy Elliott.

Obviously, he had forgotten the cameras. Attention was drawn immediately to the fresh blemishes and he was bang to rights. As the players left the field at the close, the England batsman Kevin Pietersen performed a pirouette every bit as dainty as Afridi's to emphasise the misdemeanour. England would be wise not to overstate their displeasure.

Their run-out of Inzamam in the morning had observed the letter of the law but teased its spirit. It also had the potential to reignite previous feuds between these sides concerning ball-tampering and arguing with umpires. Maybe the players should read not only the "Spirit" but also some recent history.

Pakistan's captain had made a delightful 109 from 200 balls, never hurrying, never needing to. He looked set for another month or two when he played a delivery from Stephen Harmison back down the pitch.

Lately, England's bowlers have made a custom of picking up such trifles and hurling them towards the wicketkeeper - witness the hoo-ha last summer involving the Australian opener Matthew Hayden, who made a dreadful fuss, poor lamb. Bowlers would say that it keeps the batsman honest. It is also vaguely intimidatory.

It would be pushing it to suggest that Inzamam has never moved so fast, but in avoiding the throw it was difficult to be sure if that was dust behind him or a slipstream. Darrell Hair, the square leg umpire, abrogated his responsibility by referring it to the third umpire Nadeen Ghouri.

After looking at the replay, Inzamam, who had been in his crease, was given out because he lifted his right foot off the ground as Harmison's throw hit the leg stump. Ghouri delivered his judgement based solely on the position of Inzamam's foot. Hair and his colleague Simon Taufel must have felt the batsman had not left his ground "to avoid injury" as law 38 (2) (a) allows but because he fancied what would pass for high-jump practice in Inzy's gym regime.

Pakistan's coach Bob Woolmer said: "Afridi's actions were outside the spirit of the game, but then so is the practice of hurling the ball at the batsman every time he plays it down the pitch towards the bowler." Which said it all.

Comments