England players hit by 'pellets'

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The Independent Online

Confusion reigned last night after three England players were struck by pellets during the side's exciting two-run victory in the fifth match of the one-day series against India. Since confusion is part of the way of life in this country it was probably no major cause for concern, but play was still held up for five minutes while the match referee was informed.

The England captain, Nasser Hussain, played down the incident and home officials said that the tourists were mistaken. The incidents occurred midway through India's reply to England's total of 271 for 5.

"Michael Vaughan came up to me to say he was being hit by pellets," Hussain said, "then Graham Thorpe said it, and then Andrew Flintoff, so I thought that's enough, and told the match referee about it. As soon as I said that it stopped. I'm not making a big deal about it. Throughout this series there've been incidents on the boundary. Throughout history it's happened. I suppose this was taking it a bit too far, but it's nice that when you speak to people it's sorted out."

Although England talked vaguely of a pellet gun being involved, Maninder Singh Jaggi, of the Delhi Cricket Association, said: "I think the England cricketers' imagination has run wild. A small piece of cardboard was found near the area and that had probably blown in from outside the ground."

Certainly, it was a minor incident in relation to crowd behaviour in India in the past, which quite often featured mass invasions to mob players and setting fire to the stands. But even if the authorities are dismissing the incident, it will still serve as an embarrassment for security services, particularly after they have relaxed security in recent weeks around the team.

England's victory keeps the series alive. The sides go to Bombay for the sixth match on Sunday, when India will attempt to win the series and England to draw it. Yesterday's match was a triumph for the spinner, Ashley Giles. He was dropped after appearing in the first match and returned yesterday to see his first four overs disappear for 32 runs. But he came back to take five wickets and cut off the ball as it headed for a boundary which would have given India victory off the final ball.

"My wife, Stine, is expecting our second child in a couple of weeks," Giles said. "If she was watching the baby has probably been born already."