Woolmer: My players are not cheats
by AFP

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

DateLine: 21st August 2006


Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer and tour manager Zaheer Abbas both insisted their side had not been guilty of ball-tampering during their sensational forfeit of the fourth and final Test against England at The Oval.


England were declared the winners Sunday after Pakistan, in a move unprecedented in the 129-year-history of Test cricket, were deemed to have forfeited the match because the tourists did not take the field after tea.


Pakistan were incensed that they had been accused of ball tampering and penalised five runs.


"I think there was a genuine feeling that, by inference, we had been cheating," Woolmer told Sky Sports.


"I personally asked every member of the team, under oath basically, whether they had at any time scratched the ball during the innings and to a man they said no.


"I looked at the ball and came to my own conclusions.


"I didn't see any undue tampering with the ball - and in 38 years (of involvement in cricket) I have seen tampering with balls," former England all-rounder Woolmer added.


"It had been hit into the stands on numerous occasions by Kevin Pietersen. I didn't think there were any undue marks, but that is a personal opinion. "Having asked my team I can concur with them there was probably just damage from concrete and whatever."


Australia umpire Darrell Hair made it clear to all in the ground what had happened when he signalled the penalty to the scorers at the end of the fourth day's 56th over which had been bowled by paceman Umar Gul.


It was Gul's 14th over, with England 230 for three in their second innings, when the umpires inspected the match ball and then decided that the five-run penalty would be applied for the first time in a Test match.


Their decision came shortly after Gul had snared England batsman Alastair Cook lbw for 83 with a reverse-swing yorker.


When the umpires went out after tea, the Pakistan players stayed in the dressing room. When Hair and West Indies' Billy Doctrove went out a second time, 15 minutes later, this time with the England batsmen, Pakistan still stayed put.


They did eventually take the field but by then the bails had been removed and, under the Laws of Cricket, the match was now over.


With Hair and Doctrove standing by their decision, the match was unable to be resumed with England awarded a victory that gave them a 3-0 series victory.


However, Woolmer was adamant that Pakistan were not told the Test was over until much later in the day. "We didn't find out out until 9.15pm that evening. If he (Hair) had forfeited the innings someone should have told us.


"It's a very black day for cricket... I would like to say that I and the team are very sorry to the British public we are not playing cricket today (Monday)."


However, Zaheer Abbas, Pakistan's team manager said there was no way the team could simply accept the officials' decision to penalise the side five runs for ball-tampering. "Somehow you have to protest something."


He too stressed that Pakistan wanted to continue with the match. "We spoke to each other and we all came to the conclusion that we should go ahead and play.


"At that point in time when we were ready to go in, the boys were late. We were late, there's no doubt about it," the Pakistan batting great admitted at The Oval on Monday where the team were collecting their kit.


We have all, (the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Pakistan Cricket Board) requested that he (Hair) should come back but he said 'no I don't want to come back'.


"We are here to play cricket, we are not here to make problems. The ECB and Pakistan have a very good relationship.


"We would love to have played. It could have been sorted out nicely."


Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq earlier told GEO television he wanted Hair barred from officiating in all future Pakistan matches.


"We hope that this umpire is not standing in our next matches, it would be good to avoid any more controversy.


"We think what we did was justified, we did it for the sake of our country. Why is only one umpire finding fault with us?"

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)


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