Delay to hearing clears way for one-day games

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The Independent Online

The International Cricket Council has reiterated that Inzamam-ul-Haq's ball tampering and disrepute hearing will not take place prior to or during Pakistan's six limited-over matches against England. On Wednesday the Pakistan team stated that it wanted the matter dealt with before Monday's Twenty20 game against England in Bristol, and were prepared to allow an alternative match referee - Ranjan Madugalle, the chosen chairperson, is unavailable because of a family illness - to chair the hearing that was scheduled to take place today.

The declaration was followed by an evening of meetings between Inzamam, his side and the Pakistan Cricket Board, who eventually convinced the players that they should wait until the end of the tour before learning of their captain's fate. Inzamam could face a hefty fine and a 10-match ban for his alleged involvement in the controversial fourth Test, and had such a punishment been handed out today it would probably have led to the Pakistan team withdrawing from the one-day section of the tour.

The date of the hearing will be decided today when Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive, arrives from Dubai. Speed flew in to London last night and will attend a series of meetings with the Pakistan board and team, where he will attempt to address as many of the unresolved issues surrounding the forfeited fourth Test as he can. His presence highlights how the affair, which started on Sunday when the umpire Darrell Hair accused the Pakistan team of cheating by asking for the match ball to be changed.

"We will know the date of the hearing on Friday," Shaharyar Khan, the Chairman of the PCB, said. "The players did not want the sword of the hearing hanging over them - but now they have realised the importance of playing. We do not have any problems with the England and Wales Cricket Board, so we must continue with the tour. Our focus is now on the cricket."

Most, if not all signs, suggest that the remainder of the tour will go ahead as planned, but until Inzamam makes a definitive comment, stating that Pakistan will play in the Twenty20 match at Bristol and the five NatWest series games that follow, speculation will continue.

Inzamam is the key figure in the sorry saga. The PCB and the England and Wales Cricket Board support the ICC's decision to postpone the hearing until Madugalle is ready, but Inzy wants his name to be cleared as soon as possible. Inzamam's influence on the team goes beyond a cricket field. His team-mates worship him and they would be reluctant to play in the one-day series without him in charge.

The most encouraging aspect of another eventful day was the sight of the Pakistan team at Uxbridge, ready and fairly willing to play a game against Middlesex. But their desire to return to a cricket field ended on their arrival at Uxbridge when it became apparent that heavy overnight rain had saturated large areas of the ground. After a brief chat with the umpires the match was abandoned at 10.30am despite the gathering of an inquisitive crowd.

Play could possibly have started in the afternoon had there been no further rain but Pakistan, who have two bowlers attempting to regain fitness after several weeks on the sidelines, were understandably reluctant to risk further injury. They chose instead to travel to Lord's for a net. While at Uxbridge Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, denied reports that he and Inzamam had fallen out.

"Throughout this whole affair I have remained behind the Pakistan team and captain," Woolmer, the former England batsman, said. "I did contemplate resigning. I am 58 and at an age where I don't need these things in my career and my life. I was very down at the time. But I feel it is important now to stay strong."

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