Hair walk-out ended hopes of saving fateful Test

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The Independent Online

Last-minute attempts to save the fourth Test between England and Pakistan failed when the Australian umpire Darrell Hair angrily walked out of a meeting at the Oval at the end of the highly controversial day of Test cricket which had seen Pakistan punished for ball-tampering and England awarded the match by forfeit.

The meeting was intended to rescue the Test match, and reduce the damaging impact of one of Test cricket's darkest days. Hair's walk-out made that impossible.

Hair was incensed by a gesture made towards him by the Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq. It is believed that attempts were made to persuade Hair to stay, but he departed with the words: "I am leaving and he knows why," indicating Inzamam.

The meeting had been convened after most of the controversial events of the day had already taken place: Hair and his fellow umpire Billy Doctrove had deducted the Pakistan side five penalty runs for ball-tampering, the Pakistan side had refused to return to the field and the umpires had then declared the game forfeited and England the winners.

The meeting had been convened by the match referee, Mike Procter, at about 5.45pm on Sunday 20 August - the fateful fourth day of the final Test at the Oval - and involved the captains, Inzamam and Andrew Strauss, and the coaches of both sides, Bob Woolmer and Duncan Fletcher. Also present were Hair and Doctrove, Doug Cowie, the umpires and referees manager of the ICC, and David Collier and David Morgan, of the England and Wales Cricket Board. The object of the meeting was to explore ways to rescue the Test match which still had a day to run.

The meeting took place despite the fact that half an hour earlier the umpires had awarded the match to England after Pakistan had failed to meet their deadline to return to the field.

Bad light had already brought an early close to play on the Sunday, but play could have been resumed the following day if a solution was found acceptable to both sides. Such a solution would clearly have reduced the impact of what was already a highly damaging episode for the ICC.

Various possible solutions were explored during the meeting, with Hair putting across his point of view and Inzamam responding. It is believed that Inzamam expressed the view that he had not been given the chance to speak to the umpires and that Hair had labelled the Pakistan side as cheats.

Inzamam then made a waving gesture to which Hair took great exception and walked out. One explanation is that the Australian umpire felt the gesture was insulting to anyone who knew anything about Pakistani culture.

The meeting had been going on for about 15 minutes at that point and it became clear to everyone left that there was no point in continuing in Hair's absence. Still, though, it is thought that one final effort was made to save the match when Hair was contacted by the ICC chief executive, Malcolm Speed, by telephone.

It is also thought that when Hair initially suspected something was wrong with the ball, his fellow umpire Doctrove had suggested they allow play to continue for a few more overs in the hope of possibly catching Pakistan players tampering with it. However, Hair is believed to have said that if the ball's condition had been altered unfairly, that was enough for them to act and they should change it immediately.

Hair persuaded Doctrove, and Hair then contacted Trevor Jesty, the fourth umpire, and asked for a box of replacement balls in accordance with the rules. He also signalled five penalty runs, also in accordance with the rules.

The disclosure that Hair had walked out of a meeting intended to save the Test match will only increase criticism of him over the whole affair.

Hair has a reputation as a forceful and strong-willed figure, whose sometimes belligerent manner has upset many. In particular, he has frequently upset Asian cricketers. The current ball-tampering affair has only worsened his reputation on the subcontinent.

Two days after the Test match finished, Hair made an extraordinary offer to the ICC. He said, in an e-mail to Cowie, that he was prepared to resign from his position as an international umpire in return for $500,000 (£270,000). The e-mail said the money would be a "one-off payment to compensate the loss of future earnings, details of which must be kept confidential by both parties".

It stipulated that the ICC would not make any public comment as to the reasons for Hair's departure and that his offer "in no way precludes me taking legal action and/or instigating libel suits against various sections of the electronic and print media for comments made either previously or in the future" or precluded him from suing members of the Pakistan cricket team. Three days later, the ICC revealed details of Hair's e-mails.

"When I received the correspondence I was shocked," said Speed. "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."

After the contents of the e-mail were announced, the Australian issued his own statement declaring that there was "no malicious intent" behind the offer and expressed his intentions to continue umpiring until his contract expired in March 2007.

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