Hussain may appear at King commission

Trevor Chesterfield

May 29, 2000

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Cronjegate is becoming an even more intriguing merry-go-round these days with suggestions that England captain Nasser Hussain could be summoned to attend the King Commission of inquiry into malpractice and dishonesty said to involve South African players.

It is all a matter, you understand, of Hussain clearing up a few loose ends surrounding the fifth Test of the Millennium Series between South Africa and England in mid-January when Northerns Cricket Union lost R2.5-million after days two, three and four were washed out.

No one seems to mention that as they scramble for the juicy bits of information. One of which is said that Hansie Cronje received a payment for his role in the outcome of the match at SuperSport Park.

Since Cronje admitted about seven weeks ago to "not being totally honest" the background surrounding the Centurion result, where England won by two wickets, have been partly shrouded and muddied and memories become conveniently short. Why Hussain cannot give evidence in London instead of Cape Town is a bit of a mystery.

On January 17 Hussain during a media conference after day four had been called off proceeded to shoot down suggestions his idea to play a short day/night game had been "snubbed by the South African team".

Day four resulted in another blank day because of a large, soggy area at the Hennops River end of the ground was still considered, under the laws, still too dangerous by umpires Darrell Hair and Rudi Koertzen. Under normal circumstances the Test was as good as dead.

Hussain, however, had thought the idea of short day/night match would reward the supporters of both camps for their patience during the rain-ruined final match of the series.

Cronje, after talking to the rest of the South African side at the sodden venue, declined the offer to play what could have been a 25-overs-a-side slog under lights. At the time Cronje did not envisage any form of declaration and said so on the fourth afternoon: South Africa had been long marooned on 155 for six with Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock the not out batsman.

Under normal conditions Cronje would have batted on as long as possible to give the side some extra batting practice, especially with the triangular limited-overs series looming.

Then in stepped Dr Ali Bacher, managing director of the United Cricket Board, who explained there were a number of contractual agreements which had to be adhered to: television rights along with those for radio, sponsors and other facets would create a problem.

What with SA Breweries/MTN pouring in R106-million over five years, it is easy to understand how peeved they would be if the UCB suddenly switch to a day/night game.

Hussain, who later that fourth afternoon had talked to British media, said some tabloid claims he had been snubbed by the South Africans over the 25-overs game idea "was a fabrication".

On arriving at the Centurion venue on the final morning of the match, a couple of members of the South African media ran into Test umpire Cyril Mitchley, who indicated the possibility of how the game could be salvaged. He briefly outlined what could happen.

It was a case that South Africa might bat on and set a target with England declaring their first innings and South Africa forfeiting their second innings after which England would be set a target. The laws provided for such a manipulation and had been used in English county games. But in a Test...?

Andy Walpole, the ECB media liaison officer, did not pour scorn on the suggestion when asked if was indeed the plan. There was always the suggestion though that Cronje had changed his mind overnight. Not all the players bought into it, but Cronje's mind was, it seemed, made up and sent a message to Hussain who left the field briefly to discuss the options.

All you need to do to verify the facts is to read the match analysis the following day. All Hussain did was agree to the eventual target to give England's supporters an excuse to drown something other than their sorrows and the team to at least celebrate instead of grumbling.

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