It's just not cricket!

Pakistan forfeit Test match after protests over ball-tampering allegations and a walk-out by umpires
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It was the day cricket spun out of control. In an unprecedented decision, Pakistan were deemed to have forfeited the fourth Test against England at the Oval after being accused of cheating by match officials.

In scenes never before seen on a cricket pitch, Pakistan's players staged a protest by failing to emerge from their dressing room at the end of the tea interval, two-and-a-quarter hours after the umpires had deemed them guilty of illegally tampering with a cricket ball.

After a peace deal was negotiated, events descended further into farce when the umpires, Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, themselves refused to return to the field. This led to play for the day being abandoned.

By refusing to return to the field of play at the designated time the match officials eventually ruled that Pakistan had forfeited the game and awarded the Test to England. In the long and colourful history of cricket, Test matches have been abandoned for any number of reasons but this is the first instance of a game being decided in such a manner.

Late last night, after an evening spent in negotiations with officials from the Pakistan Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council, David Collier, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, issued a statement expressing his regret at what had happened.

And in an effort to appease the 23,000 spectators who attended yesterday's play and the 12,000 who had purchased tickets for the final day, the ECB said they would be offering a 40 per cent refund on fourth day tickets and automatic full reimbursement for today's crowd. The gesture will cost the ECB and Surrey about £400,000.

The collapse of the Test has left an indelible stain on the sport, just 12 months after England regained the Ashes for the first time in 18 years at the same ground.

It is also another blow to the image of international sport, the latest installment in a summer of shame that included diving and cheating at the football World Cup, drug allegations at the Tour de France and seemingly endless doping scandals in athletics.

A capacity crowd at the Oval was left angry and booing when the extent of the stand-off between the Pakistan team and the umpires became apparent.

It appeared as though a compromise had been reached when Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, led his side on to the field 45 minutes after their protest. Yet the Pakistan players were not followed by the match officials or Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, the not-out England batsmen. It was now the umpires who were making a protest about the behaviour of the Pakistan players, turning an international event in front of 23,000 spectators into a humiliating mess.

This is not the first time that there has been a complete breakdown in communications between the players of a team and match officials. In Faisalabad in November 1987, Mike Gatting, then England captain, had an altercation with Shakoor Rana, a Pakistan umpire, over decisions he had made in the series. The incident led to one day's play of a Test match being abandoned and cricketing communications between the two countries being severely damaged.

The incident that instigated Pakistan's actions took place at 2.30pm and after 56 overs of England's second innings, when Hair approached Doctrove with the match ball in his hand. Following a brief chat with Doctrove, and after showing his colleague what he thought had taken place, Hair called for Trevor Jesty, the fourth official, to bring out a box containing six balls in varying degrees of wear. As per the regulations, the umpires then invited the England batsmen to pick the ball they would like the game to be played with, before signalling to the scorers that England should be awarded five penalty runs.

Up until tea, Inzamam and the Pakistan team had appeared to keep their calm. Inzamam's distress and anger could be clearly seen during his brief conversation with the umpires, when he was told what was taking place, but he and his team waited until they had reached the dressing room before choosing to make the protest.

Shaharyar Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, later stated that his team only intended to make a minor protest and would have taken the field a few minutes after play was supposed to resume. But, by the time the Pakistan team began to emerge from their dressing room, Hair and Doctrove had removed the bails from the stumps and returned to the pavilion.

The umpires reappeared seven minutes later with the England batsmen in close pursuit, but by then the Pakistan team had decided to extend their protest. Pakistan's position became apparent when Kamran Akmal, their wicket-keeper, appeared on the players' balcony without his gloves on. He then proceeded to pick up a newspaper and read it.

I have certain sympathy with Pakistan but this compassion disappears when a team ultimately refuses to accept the decision of an umpire. Whether they are right or wrong, the umpires' decision should be final.

It was the dismissal of Alastair Cook for 83 that probably raised the interest of Hair. Umar Gul produced a beautiful inswinging yorker that rapped Cook on the boot in the 52nd over of the innings. Up until then the ball had done very little.

Umpires are expected to make regular inspections of a cricket ball to make sure nothing untoward is taking place and the reverse swing Gul had used would have encouraged Hair to look at the ball. Pakistan cricket and reverse swing, a phenomenon where the ball swings the opposite way to what is expected, have always been closely linked.

Scratching or tampering with a cricket ball helps produce reverse swing, but it can also be created by natural wear during play. Indeed, England used the art to great effect in last summer's Ashes when they defeated Australia 2-1. Yet nobody accused them of ball-tampering.

The incident overshadowed an England fightback by Kevin Pietersen, who scored 96 and, when play was abandoned, England, on 298-4, required 33 more runs to make Pakistan bat again.

Countdown to chaos

* Umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove confer over the state of the ball, with England 230 for three, after 56 overs. Batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood select replacement from half-a-dozen brought to them. Pakistan's coach, Bob Woolmer, tries to visit match referee, Mike Procter, to no avail.

* Bad light stops play with England 33 runs in arrears with six wickets intact.

* Play is officially due to resume and Hair and Doctrove wait in the middle; England batsmen Ian Bell and Collingwood remain on the dressing-room balcony, while Pakistan do not re-emerge.

* Match officials leave field of play.

* David Collier, the England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive, is seen addressing England coach Duncan Fletcher. Both the England fifth-wicket duo and umpires Hair and Doctrove return to the middle but Pakistan are absent.

* David Morgan, the chairman of the ECB, sits in discussion with Pakistani counterpart, Shaharyar Khan.

* Pakistan officials chat on steps outside the dressing room area as the capacity crowd wait. Signs made by the hierarchy suggest play will continue.

* The Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq leads his team back out on to the field amid a chorus of boos from the frustrated Oval crowd.

* Inzamam leads his men back to the dressing room with the umpires now conspicuous by their absence.

* Khan confirms the Pakistani team's delay was a protest against the punishment and the implication they had scuffed the ball.

* Play is called off for the day. The groundstaff pull the covers over the square.

What is ball tampering?

By David Llewellyn

In the course of a cricket match, the leather covering of a cricket ball is prone to change if it hits a rough surface. But the surface is also vulnerable to natural changes to its condition. Unscrupulous players have been known to inflict deliberate damage to the ball to change its aerodynamic properties. That is why Law 42 embraces the state of the ball. Paragraph three covers changing the condition of the ball. It is accepted practice for the fielding side to be able to polish the surface of the ball, although not with the use of saliva when they are sucking mints or chewing gum. But it is forbidden to aid its deterioration. Players can dry a wet ball with a towel and remove mud from it. But it is just not cricket to scuff or scratch the surface of the ball by rubbing it on the ground or by using fingernails or other implements.