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August 20, 2006
4.35pm The covers are coming off, and it's looking bright enough for a resumption. And here come the umpires
4.40pm Now then, this is interesting. The umpires are out there, but the Pakistanis are not coming out of the dressing-room. We could have a bit of an incident here.
The slow-hand claps start to ring out ... but there is nothing doing from the Pakistanis. The England batsmen are ready, and now the umpires are having to troop back indoors.
Inzy was threatening to come out, it would seem, but now they are going deeper back into the bowels of the pavilion. I sense a major incident is about to kick off here.
4.45pm Zaheer Abbas, Pakistan's manager, is talking on his mobile phone on the balcony, but no sign of Inzamam or Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, who was seen before tea striding towards the match referee's office with the rule book in hand.
No doubt about it, we've got a protest in progress here.
4.55pm The batsmen are coming out now, to great cheers, but there's no sign of the Pakistan team. Oh, there goes Kamran Akmal, on the balcony, but he just sits down and takes his gloves off. He's making a statement of intent here, picking up his paper and just reading it. Pakistan are clearly not going to take the field now. The only people out on the field are the two batsmen and two umpires.
5.00pm The bails are coming off now - suggesting the game is over - and the umpires are roundly booed by the crowd. The umpires are walking off as are the batsmen. Have Pakistan forfeited the game? This is a hugely serious situation - and the crowds have no idea what's going on.
5.10pm Kamran Akmal has been called back into the dressing room, presumably for a team meeting, whereas Shoaib Akhtar has left. David Morgan, the ECB chairman, has just shaken hands with Zaheer Abbas on the balcony. Now Morgan and Sharayar Khan, the chairman of the PCB, are sitting around to have crisis talks.
5.15pm The Pakistan officials and Morgan are now going into the Pakistan dressing room for talks.
5.20pm Here's what Andrew Miller has for us. "The issue would seem to boil down to evidence. Has Darrell Hair got any proof that the Pakistanis were tampering with the ball? Did he see a specific player scratch at the seam, or did he take a look at a ball that is 55 overs old and draw his own conclusions? As Ian Botham has just said on Sky Sports, it's a matter of honour to the Pakistanis. If Hair has no proof, then they are well within their rights to take this stance."
5.25pm In a further surprising twist, the covers are now coming off and that's greeted by a huge cheer. But the stumps have still not been replaced. Whatever it is, it's a mess.
5.27pm A ha, the Pakistan team have spoken with Mike Procter, the match referee, and have apparently confirmed that they will take the field. But, oh dear, the light has deteriorated so the England batsmen could take the light if they go back on the field. This is a complete farce of Carry On proportions, but without the humour.
5.30pm Boos from the crowd as Pakistan take to the field. The crowd haven't been kept informed of what's been happening, but it's good that Pakistan are on. Darrell Hair is now saying that if Pakistan take the field, he won't. It's all very sad, and very messy.
5.32pm It gets more bizarre. Pakistan are now walking off as the umpires aren't coming out.
"It sums up the ICC for me," says Nasser Hussain on Sky. "They talk about irrelevant things. You've got a major sporting issue here at The Oval, surely Mike Procter sits down with the main people and says, "Right what's going on?" Do it behind the scenes and get a decision made and this would stop all these ridiculous scenes of players going up and down stairs."
There are press cameraman loitering at the bottom of the steps capturing these extraordinary scenes, and who can blame them. These photos will be making the backpages tomorrow for sure.
Some people aren't hanging around - fed up with the nonsense, spectators are starting to leave.
5.40pm At last there's an announcement over the tannoy for the crowds.
Meanwhile, Mike Atherton's opinions on Sky are scathing of Darrell Hair, saying his decision lacks any historical context and that they lacked common sense. "It's bound to inflame things. It would have been best to leave it to the end of the day. He's not a man to back down. He's a stubborn character, a strong character.. so even though Pakistan said they were willing to come back out [after the bails removal/apparent forfeiture] you could imagine him sitting in the dressing room refusing to come out."
5.45pm No individual has been accused, by the way; Cricinfo have been told by sources inside the Pakistan camp.
5.50pm "We are hurt and we are disappointed," says Shahrayar Khan, "and we are registering our complaints through the relevant channels."
He also added this, on Sky: "We have indicated very clearly that we can go out and play, in fact the boys came out and that we want the Test match to continue. We want this issue to be finished and resolved. We want the umpires to come out. We have indicated we are ready to come on to the field and play."
About the incident earlier he had this to say: "Nobody was consulted and nobody was told that something was wrong with the ball and they felt deeply aggrieved for the country and for the fans. They said that we want to register a protest and they felt that they could do it by just waiting a few minutes. And then we were ready to come out and we felt it was extraordinary that we were ready to come out and the umpires say they are not. It's very sad that this has come to pass."
He added further: "I hope the match can continue. It's bad light but even if we can continue for half an hour, that would be good."
Looking ahead, whether this would affect the one-dayers, Khan didn't say. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future. We have absolutely no complaint with the English board. We have very good relations and atmosphere, the spirit of this series has been excellent. If this match is abandoned it won't be because of the English board or the team it will be because of an incident that has been brought to the fore by the umpires."
Nasser Hussain added this: "The problem is the conflict with the boards and the ICC. This is an ICC matter. The ICC and the umpires are the ones that are supposed to be running this game of cricket. Who is in charge of this game?"
6.00pm An ECB spokesperson has just said: "It's entirely a matter for the ICC and the PCB. England's batsmen were out there and all ready to resume playing." They are going to sit tight and wait for someone to make a decision. For obvious reasons, ie it's not really anything to do with them, the England camp won't be making any further statements on this situation at the moment.
6.05pm The fourth umpire has just informed the teams that there will be no more play today.
Just a little extra from the bemused ECB spokesperson. "It's certainly nothing to do with the spirit between the teams. That much I can tell you. Just like the rest of us, they are sat there in astonishment waiting for someone to tell us what's happening."
6.15pm Play has been officially called off for the day: that leaves open the possibility that there will be cricket tomorrow.
6.30pm The ECB have just announced that the ICC have told them that meetings will be held immediately after play to determine whether the match will go ahead tomorrow.
6.32pm Bob Woolmer has just announced: "The team is upset by the inference they have been accused of tampering with the ball and therefore cheating. It is a no-win situation as the umpires refuse to come out."
10.30pm The fourth Test between England and Pakistan at The Oval has been forfeited as an England win, after a joint statement between the ICC, ECB and PCB.
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