The ball-tampering row that has enveloped cricket took another twist yesterday when the International Cricket Council revealed that Darrell Hair, the umpire at the centre of the dispute that led to the fourth Test against Pakistan being awarded to England, was prepared to offer his resignation in exchange for $500,000 (£270,000).
The result of the revelation was to save the one-day series, with Shahriyar Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, confirming their commitment to the final fortnight of the tour.
Hair made the one-off, non-negotiable offer to the ICC by e-mail on Tuesday, two days after the conclusion of the controversial Test at the Oval, only to revoke it later in the day. The e-mail was sent to Doug Cowie, the ICC umpires and referee manager, who immediately forwarded it to Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the ICC.
Speed contacted three leading lawyers, each of whom advised the ICC to make the correspondence public because it would have been obliged to present it to the PCB prior to the code of conduct hearing in which Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, is facing charges of ball tampering and bringing the game in to disrepute after Pakistan delayed returning to the field after tea on Sunday in protest at Hair's ruling over ball tampering.
Withholding the e-mails from the PCB would have prejudiced the case against Inzamam and caused immeasurable damage to the ICC and the game of cricket if the truth ever came out.
Releasing the contents to the PCB would have increased the chances of the e-mails being leaked to the media, and with this in mind the ICC revealed them.
Pakistan's players are delighted the one-day series starting with a Twenty20 match in Bristol on Monday can now go ahead.
"The boys are jubilant at this news," Zaheer Abass, the Pakistan team manager, said. "All along we maintained that we were innocent and it's now been proven right. I'm glad the one-day series will go on."
The ICC president, Percy Sonn, alongside Speed and ICC cricket manager Dave Richardson at the press conference in London, said: "We have been assured by Shahriyar Khan that his side intends to contest the series as scheduled and we welcome that decision as the first step on the road to a return to normality."
Hair, despite the rumpus his e-mails have caused, still hopes to work as an umpire.
"This correspondence was composed at a very difficult time and was revoked by myself after a period of serious consideration. There was no malicious intent behind this communication with the ICC," he said in a statement. "I am anxious that the code of conduct hearing takes place as soon as possible so that these matters can be resolved and allow me to move on with my umpiring."
His actions can be viewed in two ways. Some may consider that he premeditatedly engineered the situation for his own financial gain, or decided to try to exploit an explosive predicament for similar reasons.
The ICC, however, prefers to take the view that Hair, who has been under immense pressure, was attempting to bring an untenable situation to a satisfactory conclusion without being out of pocket.
The $500,000 Hair initially asked for is the amount he would potentially earn before his contract with the ICC expires in March 2008.
The issue has led to the ICC calling for a special meeting of its executive board, which will take place in Dubai next Saturday.
Inzamam's code of conduct hearing is now due to take place in the second half of next month, but it could be deemed superfluous if the ICC's executive board deem Hair's actions have compromised the allegations aimed at Inzamam.
Speed said: "Darrell Hair has not been sacked, suspended or charged under the ICC code of conduct. But I did say to him that I could not guarantee that each of these positions would be maintained indefinitely.
"When I received the correspondence I was shocked. I thought it was a silly letter that signified that Darrell Hair was under a great deal of stress. I did not believe he saw it as an opportunity to make a sum of money.
"I was concerned as to how I should deal with it and, in particular, whether, as a matter of fairness, I was required to disclose it. We received three separate and independent legal opinions. They offered the unanimous view that the ICC was required to disclose the correspondence as it was material or relevant to matters that might be raised in the code of conduct hearing of the Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.
"Although we are certain they are not the product of dishonest, underhand or malicious intent and believe the contents played no part in Darrell's decision making during the fourth Test," Speed added, " they could be read as such.
"The view of those of us at the ICC aware of these e-mails is that they were written by a man under a great deal of stress after an extremely difficult match."
Richardson also dismissed any notion that Hair was attempting to twist the ICC's arm. "When I saw the letters, I thought 'typical Darrell'," Richardson said.
"He believes 100 per cent that the decisions he made were correct and probably felt that, 'If they are correct and they have a caused a furore maybe I can help the ICC by volunteering to resign, although, I'm not going to do that and miss out on the best years of my umpiring career, and clearly it would be fairer if I was paid for that'."
What now in cricket's ball-tampering row?
* Where is Hair now? Hair was at his Lincolnshire home a couple of days ago but it is thought he travelled to London in anticipation of a hearing being arranged into the charges levelled at Inzamam-ul-Haq.
* Where is the ball? Under the supervision of match referee Mike Procter.
* When is the hearing? It should take place next month, although no date has been arranged. The timing depends on when Ranjan Madugalle, the proposed chairman who is in Sri Lanka on family matters, and the various protagonists are available.
* How much does an élite umpire earn? It is estimated to be in the region of £60,000 per year.
* Will the one-day series between England and Pakistan go ahead? Both nations' boards have said it will.
* What will happen to Hair now? Hair, who says he intends to continue umpiring, is scheduled to stand at the 2nd XI fixture between Derbyshire and Gloucestershire at Chesterfield on Wednesday. However, this seems unlikely. His long-term position will be discussed by the ICC board on 2 September. Malcolm Speed, the chief executive, said Hair had not been sacked, suspended or charged but did not rule out the possibility that he may be in due course.
* What does this mean for Inzamam-ul-Haq and Pakistan? Inzaman, as captain of Pakistan, takes responsibility for their actions and has been charged with bringing the game into disrepute by refusing to lead his team back on to the field of play after tea on the fourth day of the fourth Test, and for changing the condition of the ball. These charges could now be dropped, especially the latter which relies heavily on Hair's testimony. The former charge would seem indefensible but Pakistan may argue they were not refusing to play, merely delaying their return to playing as a protest. There is provision in the laws to make up time in such circumstances.Reuse content