Hussain perfects art of umpire diplomacy

Nasser Hussain, the England captain, finally declared his hand on Pakistani umpiring yesterday. Thirteen years after the side last came here and complained incessantly about dodgy decisions, and two days after the first dubious decision of this tour, Hussain delivered his verdict.

Nasser Hussain, the England captain, finally declared his hand on Pakistani umpiring yesterday. Thirteen years after the side last came here and complained incessantly about dodgy decisions, and two days after the first dubious decision of this tour, Hussain delivered his verdict.

"If it happened in a game in England it wouldn't be a story," he said, "or maybe a sentence. People are still talking about it days later because it's Pakistan. In general, except for that one decision, I thought the umpires were very good the other night. They handled the pressure very well and were very amiable with both sets of players. We had no problems."

His words were pitched perfectly and were just what was required on the eve of the second one-dayer, which will be not so much day-night as day-twilight. The start was brought forward yesterday from 2.30pm to 12 noon (8am BST), the first time that dew can have had such an effect.

It is impossible now to imagine a repeat of the incident in which Mike Gatting, the last England captain on a Pakistan tour, angrily shook his finger at umpire Shakoor Rana. One of the most unsavoury confrontations of all time between player and official, it was captured in a photograph which was seen round the world.

The decision which might have got England's dander up on this occasion was given against Alec Stewart. It was the fourth ball of England's innings in the first, epic one-dayer in Karachi on Tuesday and, after an uncommonly long delay to a prolonged appeal, the umpire Riazuddin (who has provoked the ire of previous tourists to these shores, particularly Sri Lanka) decreed that Stewart had edged the ball to wicketkeeper Moin Khan.

Stewart responded by lobbing his bat on the ground, shaking his head incredulously and stalking off to the confines of the dressing room. If it looked worse than it was, that did not make it wholesome. The match referee, Barry Jarman, had a quiet word with Stewart later.

Hussain said: "In any part of the world you shouldn't brood about umpires but if a batsman has had a bad decision I also want to see him... hurt. Some people will come into the dressing room, take off their pads and say nothing. Others will be stewing - wrong word - for half an hour."

The England captain qualified his comments by saying he did not want that reaction to be displayed on the field of play.

"I'm not going to comment on specific things," Hussain added. "Al got a bad one, we've all had bad ones and we're just going to live through it for the rest of our careers, not just this tour. I'm afraid what happened the other night happens all round the world."

Thereby hangs another tale. Umpires make mistakes partly because television shows that they do, partly because players intimidate them. Stewart's dismissal was preceded by Wasim Akram jumping up and down, arms aloft, face contorted and screaming for a positive verdict.

Later on, Riazuddin was not so accommodating when he rejected an equally fervent lbw appeal, which actually looked more out than the catch. The lucky man was Nasser Hussain.

Before he embarked on this tour Hussain might have guessed that he would have to comment on the umpiring. He might not have assumed that he would need to deliberate at any length on dew.

When Moin Khan, Pakistan's captain, gave it as a possible reason for his side's loss in the opening one-dayer the immediate reaction was to invite him to pull the other one. Not so. In Karachi the players could almost see it forming before their eyes; in Lahore it starts earlier. It makes the ball wet and fielding unsafe.

England did not win the first match because of dew but because they were the better side. None the less, it was a factor. "It was really bad, worse than Karachi when we practised here," said Moin.

If anybody had realised before the series started that dew formed on Pakistani evenings in October they were not saying. Hussain was again the perfect diplomat: "They're learning on their feet. I'm pleased to see Pakistan are trying things like playing under lights."

England were likely to be unchanged in Lahore this morning while Pakistan were hoping to include the all-rounder, Azhar Mahmood. It will be a tight, high-scoring game. The sides are getting on famously so far but not so well that when they pass each other they say: "Here's looking at dew."

ENGLAND (from): N Hussain (Essex, capt), ME Trescothick (Somerset), AJ Stewart (Surrey, wkt), GA Hick (Worcestershire), GP Thorpe (Surrey), A Flintoff (Lancashire), C White (Yorkshire), MA Ealham (Kent), AF Giles (Warwickshire), AR Caddick (Somerset), D Gough (Yorkshire), MW Alleyne (Gloucestershire), VS Solanki (Worcestershire).

Pakistan (from): Saeed Anwar, Salim Elahi, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Shahid Afridi, Moin Khan (capt & wkt), Abdur Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood, Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis.

Umpires: Nazir jnr & Aleem Dar

3rd Umpire: Afzaal Ahmed

Match referee: BN Jarman (Aus).

* Shane Warne will be out of action for six weeks, missing the start of Australia's Test series against West Indies, after breaking a finger playing for Victoria against New South Wales.

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