Inzamam expected to hear fate today

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The Independent Online

Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, could discover his fate as early as today after a quick day of business on day one of his disciplinary hearing into allegations of ball tampering yesterday. The International Cricket Council's chief referee, Ranjan Madugalle, started chairing the hearing at 10am yesterday and managed to gather evidence from all 11 witnesses.

The witnesses include on-field umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, third umpire Peter Hartley, fourth umpire Trevor Jesty, match referee Mike Procter and the ICC's Doug Cowie. Also giving evidence were Inzamam, Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan, former umpire John Hampshire and former players Geoffrey Boycott and Simon Hughes. Three England batsmen ­ Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood ­ were also asked to submit written statements.

It was expected the hearing would last at least three days but Madugalle could now deliver his verdict today.

Inzamam has been charged with ball tampering and bringing the game into disrepute, following the decision of Hair and Doctrove to change the ball being used in the fourth Test against England at the Oval. If he is found guilty of both offences, he could serve a five-Test ban or be suspended for 10 one-day internationals. The ICC has told Pakistan they can replace Inzamam in next month's Champions Trophy in India if he is banned.

The England captain Andrew Flintoff yesterday hinted that he may be fit enough to bowl in the Champions Trophy. Flintoff was expected only to captain and bat at the mini-World Cup but the rehabilitation on his injured left ankle appears to be going better than originally planned.

The news will be welcomed by England, who will need Flintoff to be at his best if they are to retain the Ashes this winter. England's talisman has not played international cricket since the third Test against Sri Lanka in early June, and he needs to bowl as much as he can if he is to be in top form for the first Test against Australia on 23 November.

"My rehabilitation programme was meant to stop in mid-October and that's when the cricket starts," said Flintoff. "My ankle and my body are as fit as they have probably ever been. If everything goes to plan hopefully I will bowl but it's just wait and see."

Once Flintoff starts playing there will be, injury permitting, no time to rest. England leave for India on 6 October and, should they get to the finals of the Champions Trophy, will head straight on to Australia, not returning until the middle of February. After five Test matches against Australia, Flintoff's side will play between eight and 11 one-day matches in Oz, before returning.

Then, after a two-week break, the team travel to the West Indies to compete in the World Cup. And, if any of the players are still standing, England will then play seven Tests and 12 limited-over matches against the West Indies and India during the summer.

Flintoff was the pivotal figure of last summer's success, taking 24 wickets and scoring over 400 runs, but he knows that Ricky Ponting's side will provide even sterner opposition during the coming months.

"Travelling to Australia and the Ashes, and playing in the West Indies will be a tough challenge, but it will be the best winter of our lives," Flintoff added.

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