Inzamam career at stake as Oval inquest begins

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The Independent Online

At 2.30pm on 20 August 2006 England's summer of Test cricket appeared to be coming to a quiet, if slightly undignified conclusion. Victories at Old Trafford and Headingley ensured the Test series against Pakistan had been won, even though Andrew Strauss's side were on course to lose the final Test at the Oval against rejuvenated opponents.

But then Darrell Hair, after making a random inspection of the cricket ball being used, met up with Billy Doctrove at the end of the 56th over of England's second innings. The pair concluded that the condition of the ball had changed unnaturally - that it had been tampered with. Suddenly Pakistan had been accused of cheating.

The third official, Trevor Jesty, jogged to the middle of the ground with a box containing several used balls and England's batsmen, in accordance with the rules, were allowed to pick the ball they wanted the game to be played with. To rub salt into Pakistan's wounds Hair then signalled that England were to be awarded five penalty runs.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, kept his cool while the umpires accused him and his side of cheating but events escalated when the tourists, in the form of a protest, refused to take the field after a break in play for bad light and play. The actions of the Pakistan team, after several heated meetings, resulted in the Test being awarded to England because the opposition were deemed to have refused to play.

In light of these events Inzamam was charged with ball tampering and bringing the game into disrepute, offences that could lead to him being heavily fined and banned from international cricket for up to five Test matches or 10 one-day internationals. At the age of 36 an unfavourable verdict could end his career and the hearing, which begins today at the venue where it all started over a month ago, will conclude whether he is guilty of these breaches.

This is the International Cricket Council's second attempt to hold the hearing. The first, scheduled for 25 August, was cancelled because of a family illness that affected the availability of the ICC's chief referee, Ranjan Madugalle.

The delay only complicated matters. Initially an indignant Pakistan team refused to confirm their availability for the six limited-over games against England until the hearing had taken place. And events took another remarkable twist when the ICC revealed that Hair, the umpire at the heart of the controversy, had briefly made an offer to retire from umpiring if the ICC paid the remainder of his two-year contract - US $500,000 (£263,000) - in a one-off non-negotiable fee. Hair's action should have little or no bearing on proceedings but the Pakistan defence team are sure to try to use it to their advantage.

With Madugalle again available and the two sides - ICC and Pakistan - having assembled their legal teams and witnesses, a decision will finally be made. But, as is always the case when lawyers become involved, the process is bound to be drawn out and complicated.

The first thing Madugalle and David Pannick QC, the adjudicator's assistant, will need to agree with the two sides is the procedure, and once they concur the pair will consider testimony and written statements from witnesses, many of whom were involved in the forfeited fourth Test.

The ICC is expected to present its case first. David Stewart, a lawyer from the legal firm Olswang, and Pushpinder Saini, who will act as counsel assisting the ICC officials, will attempt to prove that Inzamam is guilty of the charges made against him. Hair and Doctrove, the two on-field officials, will be called upon to explain their actions. Trevor Jesty and Peter Hartley, the third and fourth officials, will be asked for their views, as will Mike Procter, the match referee, and Doug Cowie, the ICC umpires and match referee manager, who was at the Oval when the controversy erupted.

The ICC will attempt to focus on the ball, and the umpires' view that it had been tampered with. They will also insist that Hair and Doctrove acted according to the Laws of Cricket.

Pakistan's defence will be headed by Mark Gay of DLA Piper. Gay specialises in sports law and has had high-profile success in both convicting sports stars and proving their innocence. He fronted the Football Association's case against Rio Ferdinand for missing a drugs test and defended Greg Rusedski's charge of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Gay will call on Inzamam, Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, and Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman. He will also introduce three expert witnesses - Geoff Boycott, Simon Hughes and John Hampshire - to give their views on the state of the ball, the reaction of the officials and the events that led to a Test's bizarre conclusion.

The evidence heard, Mudagalle will have 24 hours to reach a decision. One side will, undoubtedly, claim victory but the whole affair has done nothing but damage to the game.

Ball-tampering controversy: Pakistan captain on trial

The charges:

1) Changing the condition of the ball.

On the fourth day of the fourth Test at the Oval, umpire Darrell Hair made a random inspection of the ball. He was not happy with what he saw and, after consulting with fellow umpire Billy Doctrove, the pair, believing that the Pakistan team had tampered with the ball, decided to change it.

As captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq was charged with a breach of level 2.10 of the ICC code of conduct, which relates to changing the condition of the ball. If Inzamam is found guilty he faces a fine of between 50 and 100 per cent of his match fee and/or a ban of one Test or two one-day internationals.

2) Bringing the game into disrepute.

Later that day Pakistan twice failed to take the field when the umpires instructed them to. As a result the umpires awarded the match to England. Pakistan then appeared on the field, suggesting they were willing to play. Inzamam, as captain, was charged with breaching C2 at level 3 of the code of conduct which deals with a player bringing the game into disrepute. If found guilty he faces a ban of between two and four Tests or four to eight one-day internationals.

The cast list:

The Adjudicator; Ranjan Madugalle (the ICC's chief referee)

Adjudicator's assistant; David Pannick QC

The ICC's team David Stewart (prosecuting the case)

Pushpinder Saini (counsel assisting the ICC's officials)

Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove (match umpires)

Trevor Jesty (third umpire), Peter Hartley (fourth umpire)

Mike Procter (match referee)

Doug Cowie (ICC umpires and referees manager)

Pakistan's team:

Mark Gay (defending the charges)

Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain)

Bob Woolmer (coach)

Shaharyar Khan (chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board)

Expert witnesses: Geoff Boycott (former England cricketer); Simon Hughes (former Middlesex cricketer); John Hampshire (former England cricketer and international umpire)