Test cricket controversy dominates British press
by AFP

Ground:Kennington Oval, Kennington
Scorecard:England v Pakistan
Player:Umar Gul
Event:Pakistan in British Isles 2006

DateLine: 21st August 2006


The controversial end to the Test cricket series between England and Pakistan dominated the front-pages of Britain's newspapers on Monday after the tourists forfeited the fourth Test at the Oval on Sunday.


Similar pictures of Pakistan captain Inzamam ul-Haq inspecting a ball with umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove graced page one of The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Financial Times, with The Independent dedicating its cover to Pakistani bowler Shahid Nazir holding a ball, under the headline "It's just not cricket!"


Pakistan staged a dressing room protest during the tea interval on the fourth day of the final Test match to register their anger at being penalised five runs over allegations of ball-tampering.


But when they eventually returned to the field, Hair and Doctrove stayed in the pavilion believing that Pakistan had forfeited the match with their original protest.


The controversy was sparked when veteran Australian umpire Hair penalised Pakistan five runs after paceman Umar Gul had completed his 14th over of the innings.


Hair believed that the condition of the ball had been unfairly altered.


After five hours of talks, it was eventually ruled that Pakistan had forfeited the match and England were declared the winners.


The home side took the series 3-0.


The result was, according to former England bowler Angus Fraser writing in The Independent, "the day cricket spun out of control".


He went on to write that Sunday's events "left an indelible stain on the sport, just 12 months after England regained the Ashes".


On the newspaper's back pages, one columnist asked whether "the collapse of a single match, shocking enough in itself, was not simply another pitiable example of a wider death throe."


"Were we seeing still another blind march to the point where the very meaning of sport falls into the most painful of ridicule?"


The newspaper even dedicated an editorial to the chaos at The Oval, lamenting: "A cricket match should not end like this."


"Not a cricket match."


"Whatever turbulence rocked the world ... one thing could be relied upon. A Test match was a Test match and a Test match was cricket."


"It was played in whites; it paused for lunch and tea; and a player walked back to the pavilion without demur, however preposterous the umpire's ruling."


The Daily Telegraph put the sport on a considerably lower pedestal, declaring that "cricket proved yet again that it is capable of wrapping itself so thickly in politics, race, argument and drama that it resembles anything but a sport synonymous with fair play."


Both newspapers referred to a 1987 stand-off between English batsman Mike Gatting and Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana, describing a history of bad blood between the two sides, who faced off in the 1992 World Cup final, a match Pakistan won.


The Times laid the blame squarely at the feet of the sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council, with a columnist writing: "Darrell Hair has been a controversial figure for a long time in Asian cricket circles and it was insensitive and unwise to appoint him for the last two matches of this series."


Hair, who The Guardian said already had a "knife-edge relationship" with the tourists, last year wrongfully, according to Pakistan, ruled Inzamam run out in a Test in Pakistan in November, and disallowed Salman Butt a run for running illegally down the pitch.


Former England all-rounder Ian Botham echoed The Times's sentiment in his column in The Daily Mirror, entitled: "I blame the ICC".


"Blame for the saddest, and most serious, standoff that I can remember in Test cricket ... lies with the International Cricket Council this morning," Botham wrote.


Meanwhile, as if lost in the news of the forfeit, the Financial Times reminded its readers: "Academic as it seemed, England were making good progress towards saving the game by making Pakistan bat again."

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)


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