Mind you, it is unprecedented for a chairman of selectors to be called before the discipline committee, and it is a clear sign that the Test and County Cricket Board is taking things seriously. Tellingly, the outbursts in print by Devon Malcolm on his return from South Africa never got this far, which will lend further support to Illingworth's own theory that he is being unnecessarily picked on.
However, with only the nature of the comments being under scrutiny rather than the cynical timing of them, it seems unlikely that Illingworth will be censured severely. The committee's powers range from a reprimand (the likeliest outcome) to complete removal from his job as the chairman of selectors.
Yesterday Illingworth was adamant that he would not bow to pressure from certain counties to step down. "I shall be defending myself and putting my case very strongly," he said, adding, "I feel my comments have been fair and constructive."
In theory, these will be the last words uttered by Illingworth as the whole tawdry soap opera now become sub judice until the hearing, which, in true TCCB fashion, will apparently take place "as soon as possible''. When that will be is anybody's guess, and it is unlikely to take place before this weekend's selection meeting for the first Test, which begins a week on Thursday. Illingworth, after all, needs time to prepare his case and call witnesses.
He is also allowed to object to those on the discipline committee, which needs five members present out of 12 to be quorate. Ironically, one of those who would normally sit on such matters is David Graveney, who recently put himself forward as a candidate to challenge Illingworth's position as England supremo, a challenge he was later forced to withdraw because of his position as secretary of the Players' Association. However, his presence is required only when a player is called before the committee, and Illingworth need have no fears of being Caesared.
It is just a shame for Atherton and his team that the intrigue off the field is overshadowing the good work on it. Yesterday was no exception, and England, propelled by a thrilling century from Alistair Brown, once again beat India, winning by four wickets with seven balls to spare.
These days any England win is satisfying, but this one will have proved doubly so for Brown, who in his three-match career to date has already experienced the roller-coaster ride given to modern sportsmen by a media demanding immediate and incisive results.
After his less than auspicious debut on a seaming pitch at the Oval, he'll probably find, should Illingworth allow him the space, that his knockers are insisting he gets a knighthood.
Ironically, Brown's innings did not unfold as a pinch hitter's ought to have done. He was cautious to start with, having lost Neil Smith to a brilliant slower ball from Venkatesh Prasad, and after 15 overs, England were 48 for 2.
A similar fate awaited Hick, who just managed to chip the ball to mid- on, though by then, 85 runs had been added and Brown, batting on a decent pitch for the first time in the series, was able to hit clean and straight, although there were deft moments too, like the lovely late cut for four he played off Anil Kumble. Another partnership worth 69 with Thorpe essentially sealed the game.
In the end, it took a spliced hook to get rid of him, caught at square leg by Rahul Dravid off the persevering Javagal Srinath. His 118 took 137 balls, with 12 boundaries, two of them sixes deposited into the sightscreen straight behind the head of the bowler, Venkatapathy Raju.
"I told Chris Lewis on Sunday night [when Brown was 1 not out] that I was going to get a hundred tomorrow," Brown said. "You don't always do it, but I felt really good. Mind you, I did at Headingley too and I was heading back second ball there.''
Atherton, who admitted he was not in the best of nick himself, added his own tribute. "He played fantastically well. It was a very mature innings for someone in their third one-day international."
He also gave his thoughts about India, who were reeling from the sudden retirement of Navjot Sidhu, seemingly miffed about being dropped. "I was really impressed by their new ball bowlers. They lacked a fifth bowler though, and that told against them in all three games.''
OLD TRAFFORD SCOREBOARD
India won toss
V Rathore c Cork b Thorpe 54
(121 min, 95 balls, 5 fours)
S R Tendulkar c Hick b Cork 1
(18 min, 11 balls)
S Ganguly st Stewart b Thorpe 46
(117 min, 83 balls, 3 fours)
*M Azharuddin not out 73
(77 min, 64 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes)
A D Jadeja c Stewart b Cork 29
(40 min, 32 balls, 1 four, 1 six)
R S Dravid not out 22
(21 min, 15 balls, 3 fours)
Extras (b1, lb4, w6) 11
Total (for 4, 199 min, 50 overs) 236
Fall: 1-11 (Tendulkar), 2-103 (Rathore), 3-118 (Ganguly), 4-190 (Jadeja).
Did not bat: N R Mongia, A Kumble, J Srinath, B K V Prasad, S L V Raju.
Bowling: Cork 10-3-35-2 (7-3-12-1, 2-0-13-1, 1-0-10-0); Lewis 10-1-49- 0 (w3) (6-1-18-0, 2-0-13-0, 2-0-18-0); Gough 10-1-43-0 (w2) (6-1-16-0, 2-0-13-0, 2-0-14-0); Martin 10-0-50-0 (4-0-16-0, 4-0-19-0, 2-0-15-0); Smith 6-0-39-0 (3-0-18-0, 3-0-21-0); Thorpe 4-0-15-2 (w1) (one spell).
Progress: Rain stopped play 11.12am-2.19pm at 12-1 (Rathore 10, Ganguly 0) 7 overs. 50 73 min, 107 balls; 100 117 min, 171 balls; 150 158 min, 240 balls; 200 182 min, 272 balls. Rathore 50: 114 min, 88 balls, 4 fours.
Azharuddin 50: 51 min, 46 balls, 2 fours, 2 sixes.
*M A Atherton lbw b Srinath 0
(3 min, 2 balls)
A D Brown c Dravid b Srinath 118
(180 min, 137 balls, 10 fours, 2 sixes)
N M K Smith c and b Prasad 11
(38 min, 27 balls, 1 four)
G A Hick c Ganguly b Prasad 32
(62 min, 45 balls, 2 fours, 1 six)
G P Thorpe run out (Prasad) 29
(52 mins, 33 balls, 3 fours)
M P Maynard lbw b Kumble 14
(40 min, 28 balls, 1 four)
A J Stewart not out 13
(26 min, 19 balls, 2 fours)
C C Lewis not out 4
(7 min, 2 balls, 1 four)
Extras (lb10,nb8) 18
Total (for 6, 207 min, 48.5 overs) 239
Fall: 1-2 (Atherton), 2-32 (Smith), 3-117 (Hick), 4-186 (Thorpe), 5-217 (Brown), 6-226 (Maynard).
Bowling: Srinath 10-1-35-2 (3-0-11-1, 2-1-1-0, 2-0-12-0, 3-0-11-1); Prasad 10-1-26-2 (w2) (6-0-15-1, 2-0-8-1, 2-1-3-0); Kumble 10-0-52-1 (5-0-21- 0, 4-0-27-0, 1-0-4-1); Raju 9.5-1-50-0 (w2) (8-1-33-0, 1-0-13-0, 0.5-0- 4-0); Ganguly 2-0-14-0; Tendulkar 2-0-22-0 (w1) (one spell each), Jadeja 5-0-30-0 (4-0-21-0, 1-0-9-0).
Progress: Second day: 50 66 min, 96 balls; 100 94 min, 137 balls; 150 140 min, 201 balls; 200 168 min, 245 balls.
Brown: 50: 94 min, 69 balls, 4 fours, 1 six. 100: 155 min, 122 balls, 9 fours, 1 six.
Umpires: D J Constant and A A Jones. TV replay Umpire: A G T Whitehead. Match Referee: C W Smith.
Man of the match: A D Brown. Men of the series: England: C C Lewis. India: M Azharuddin.
England win by four wickets and win series 2-0.Reuse content