As Pakistan cast doubt on the rest of their tour, the England management team was last night implicated in the ball-tampering row which erupted on the fourth day of the final Test at the Oval on Sunday which ended with the tourists being deemed to have forfeited the match.
It has emerged that on Sunday morning the only day in the whole series when the issue of ball tampering arose before the start of the day's play, the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, went to see the match referee, Mike Procter. Fletcher's visit was confirmed by an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman, who said: "It is not unusual for the England coach to meet with the match referee before play, but no complaint was made about the condition of the ball."
However, it is understood Fletcher had concerns which could have far-reaching consequences, not only for the rest of the tour, but also for the relations between the two boards and even at diplomatic level between the two countries.
There were claims last night that ball tampering was discussed by England players on Saturday, and opener Marcus Trescothick was seen studying the Pakistan players through binoculars after being dismissed. It is alleged that the finger of blame could have been pointed at Pakistan paceman Mohammad Asif.
Fletcher is also said to have suggested to television cameramen that they should focus on the ball being passed between the Pakistan players although these comments were said to have been made in the third Test at Headingley.
It looks as if the remainder of Pakistan's tour rests on the fate of their captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, who has been summoned to appear before an International Cricket Council disciplinary hearing on Friday. The Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer, admitted last night that "there will be problems" if
Inzamam is banned, confirming the one-day series would be in doubt.
Woolmer also revealed that his family had talked him out of resigning. " I love cricket, its ethics, and its traditions and this has rocked my sensibilities," Woolmer said last night.
Inzamam has been charged with ball tampering and with bringing the game into disrepute after the Pakistan team failed to re-emerge from their dressing-room on Sunday.
If found guilty of the first charge, he faces a one-Test ban or a suspension for two one-dayers. The disrepute charge is far more serious, carrying with it a ban of between two and four Tests or four to eight one-day internationals. Woolmer said: "The one-day tournament may well be in jeopardy if he is found guilty and banned for eight games. If the punishment was postponed it may be different. This is just what I'm thinking. Certainly after these events, the players are right behind their captain."
The disciplinary hearing will be heard by the ICC chief match referee, Ranjan Madugalle, the former Sri Lanka Test player, and any punishment would apply with immediate effect, which could rule Inzamam out of some or all of the remaining matches.
Yesterday, the chief target of the Pakistan board and its team was the Australian umpire Darrell Hair.
The PCB chairman, Shaharyar Khan, made it clear that Hair would be persona non grata at any Test involving his team. "The Board would not want to see Mr Hair officiating at any Pakistan game in the future," he said. "We have had problems with Hair before. The team has lost confidence in him and has been offended by his attitude. Therefore we feel his presence is not desirable and we are requesting that he should not be appointed to Pakistan matches."
Shaharyar also said the PCB had lodged a protest with the ICC on two counts. "First, on the ball tampering, we have to give our account. Second, the issue of the forfeiture.
"We will be looking for a change to the protocol regarding ball tampering. My team was aggrieved at the manner in which the issue was brought. It is an issue which affects the credibility and integrity of our team, of our nation. It cannot be a subjective decision by the umpires. They have to go through a process. Unfortunately these rules have only just come in, and when we looked at them yesterday it was clear that the umpires had the right to do what they did. But the rules require change."
Inzamam summed up Pakistan's mood yesterday when he said: "This game is about more than winning and losing, it's about respect, and countries come first. If someone says to me you are a cheat and Pakistan is doing wrong things, my priority is to my country."
Inzamam was frustrated when he wanted to see the offending ball. "I asked him [Hair], 'Why did you change the ball?' He said: 'The ball has been tampered with.' I said 'Show me,' but he is not showing me the ball. It's in the referee's room, but I say it is my right to see the ball, to show that nothing has been done to the ball."
The tourists insist there was no skulduggery with the ball. Woolmer added: "I asked every member of the team under oath whether they had scratched the ball. And to a man they said no."