England made a final effort last night to save the tour nobody wants. After more suspicion of nefarious activity by Pakistan – this time in the one-day international at The Oval on Friday night – the ECB wrongly, perhaps cravenly, resisted making the bold call to cancel the remaining two matches in the NatWest Series.
The allegations appeared in The Sun yesterday. The newspaper reported that it had obtained information that certain scoring patterns would emerge in Pakistan's innings in the third ODI. It then informed the International Cricket Council.
After an emergency board meeting, the ECB said they had written to the ICC president, Sharad Pawar, to seek assurances that the ICC did not have evidence that could mean players being suspended before the series ends, on Wednesday.
The ICC announced an investigation soon after the match. It seems that two overs are the subject of the inquiry, although a glance at Pakistan's innings suggests that they were hardly in sufficient control to be certain of pulling off a fix. They lost three early wickets – a position difficult, if not impossible, to engineer.
Pakistan won the match by 24 runs after a highly skilful spell of bowling from Umar Gul, who took 6 for 42 to destroy England's innings. The allegations of rigging the score at certain points in the match, said to involve bookmakers in Delhi, were known before the match.
Andy Flower, England's coach, said: "It's really sad for the game. From a selfish perspective it's really annoying because it devalues our Test series win and is also devaluing this one-day series. But looking at it from the game's point [of view], I hope they can get to the bottom of this stuff."
Three Pakistan players have been suspended after a News of the World sting led to the alleged bowling of no-balls in the Fourth Test between England and Pakistan.
It must have been tempting for the ECB to call the whole thing off, simply because the game needs time to regroup and everybody has had enough. But they resisted.
The statement said: "The ECB board noted the ICC is not stating as fact that anything untoward has occurred nor has yet been proven in relation to the third NatWest Series ODI between England and Pakistan."
That missed the point by rather more than a one-day wide.