Ovalgate

During England’s second innings of the 4th Test at the Oval, on 20 August, the following happened…

β€’ The umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove confer and decide to change the ball that Pakistan are bowling with. England are awarded 5 penalty runs and the two batsmen at the crease get to choose a replacement ball. The only infringement of the Laws which could lead to all this happening is if the ball has been tampered with.

β€’ Some brief history. Pakistan have been accused of, and sometimes found guilty of, ball-tampering in the past. Therefore they are rather sensitive to the issue. In addition, they have issues with Darrell Hair, who is a ‘no-nonsense’ Australian umpire. This is because he has called some of their bowlers for ‘chucking’ (illegal bowling) before. They have previously asked the ICC (the governing body) if they would mind not appointing Mr Hair to officiate in games involving themselves. The ICC refused, and in fact appointed him for four consecutive series involving Pakistan in one year.

β€’ After the tea interval, the Pakistan team do not re-appear on the field. The umpires decide (within the Laws) that Pakistan have forfeited the game by refusing to play. After the umpires and the England batsmen have gone off the field, Pakistan’s captain Inzamam-ul-Haq leads his team back on to the field, but no-one else is there, so they troop off again.

β€’ Play is abandoned, and eventually England are declared winners of the match due to Pakistan’s forfeiture. This is the first time in 129 years of Test matches that a game has been forfeited. Pakistan had been in a strong position in the match at the time it was abandoned.

β€’ Pakistan are somewhat narked at Hair (and Doctrove) alluding that they’re cheats and various Pakistani cricketing dignitaries make noises about resigning, the subcontinental teams (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh) making a break from the ICC etc etc.

β€’ The story makes the front page of two American newspapers, including the New York Times. This is possibly the most unlikely event of them all.

β€’ Hair makes an ill-advised emailed approach to the ICC, offering to resign for a one-off payment of $500,000. The ICC describe it as ‘silly’ and make the emails public.

β€’ On 28 September, Inzamam faces charges of ball-tampering (without a specific individual in the team being identified as culpable, the captain takes the rap) and bringing the game into disrepute (for keeping his team off the field). He is acquitted of ball-tampering but found guilty of the second (lesser) charge and banned for 4 One Day International matches.

β€’ Pakistan are content with this verdict and decide not to appeal. However, they may press charges against Darrell Hair for bringing the game into disrepute himself…

β€’ Darrell Hair is removed from his umpiring duties for the next major ICC tournament, the Champions Trophy, which starts next month in India. India had requested that he not officiate. For Hair the future is unclear. But he is bullish and upbeat, unusual behaviour for an Australian, as he has been throughout. He does not appear to suffer from low self-esteem.

β€’ Excellent article on the current situation here

As I mentioned in another post, I think the judgement of the match referee yesterday was correct. I can’t see how ball-tampering could have taken place, but I do think Inzy was correctly punished for keeping his team off the field and causing the abandonment of the game. Such behaviour belongs in the playground, surely. No matter that Pakistan were aggrieved at the perceived injustice, it’s not like teams haven’t felt aggrieved at umpires’ decisions before, often with justification. Anarchy would reign if teams could on a whim decide not to take the field, and a lot of people pay a lot of money to see them play.

And that’s my view… hardly earth-shattering but there it is πŸ™‚

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