England v Pakistan, 4th Test, The Oval, 4th day August 20, 2006

Oval Test in doubt after chaos ensues

Cricinfo and AFP

Inzamam-ul-Haq starts to lead his players back onto the field but it wasn't for long © Getty Images
The fourth and final Test between England and Pakistan at The Oval was plunged into controversy on Sunday in an ugly row over ball-tampering. The tourists risked forfeiting the Test after making a tea-time protest over being docked five runs for allegedly altering the state of the ball.

But just as it had seemed the match was about to restart, the Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer said a fresh delay had been caused by the refusal of umpire Darrell Hair to continue standing in the match. Pakistan were docked five runs 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 3 when the umpires inspected the match ball. Play was eventually called off for the day at 6.13pm local time (1713GMT) with England 298 for four in their second innings, a deficit of 33, with the future of the match still uncertain as the crisis meeting is yet to take place.

As the meeting got underway at 7.30pm local time (8.30GMT), a band of journalists, including Cricinfo, were told in no uncertain terms that they must get out of the building it was taking place. The meeting will determine, among other things, whether the match goes ahead tomorrow. It is believed that Mike Procter, the two umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, Bob Woolmer and an England representative James Avery were present. It's not known whether Duncan Fletcher is attending.

The players, meanwhile, left the ground with a police escort. As at 7.30pm, there was a strong police presence at the Oval, though it is purely precautionary - there are two policemen inside the pavilion and a line of them outside. As one policeman explained to Cricinfo, there was no information given to the crowds all day long and the bars were still open, and that combination makes for an inflammatory situation in his experience. And indeed the crowds were getting restless. "If I had bought a ticket for the day," he added, "I wouldn't be impressed."

The controversy began at 2.30pm local (1330GMT) when veteran Australian official Hair, standing with West Indian umpire Billy Doctrove, signalled to the scorers that five penalty runs were to be added to England's total, taking it up to 235.

Then, after an early tea had been taken because of bad light, the umpires walked back out onto the field at 4.40pm local time (1540GMT) only for no Pakistan fieldsmen to follow behind them before walking back in. Some 15 minutes later the umpires returned followed by England batsmen Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell only for the Pakistan team to remain in their dressing room.

The batsmen and umpires walked back in, with Pakistan - already a losing 2-0 down in the series - in danger of forfeiting the match. Both umpires removed the bails, returned to the pavilion and the covers came on.

Pakistan then appeared on the field, to boos from the crowd, at 5.25pm (1625GMT) but there were neither stumps in the pitch nor umpires. After several minutes without either Hair or Doctrove, or the England batsmen, Pakistan walked back off. The fresh delay was caused by Hair's refusal to continue.

Cricket's Law 21.3 states clearly states "that, in the opinion of the umpires, a team refuses to play, the umpires shall award the match to the other side." This was the first time such a five-run penalty for ball-tampering had been imposed in Test cricket, an International Cricket Council [ICC] spokesman said.

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer told AFP: "The team is upset that they have been accused of tampering with the ball and therefore 'cheating'. "It is a no-win situation as now Darrell Hair has refused to umpire."

The PCB chairman Shahrayar Khan, who had talks with England counterpart David Morgan, insisted the reason for the continuing impasse lay at the door of the umpires. "The boys are extremely upset at the slur of ball tampering. As a result they registered a protest with the match referee for the decision unilaterally taken by the umpires.

"Once we did that, we were ready to go out and play but it seems the umpires are reluctant to go out. The whole team felt very aggrieved and Inzy (Pakistan's captain Inzamam-ul-Haq) more angered than the rest. He felt we should make a protest but once that had been registered he was perfectly prepared to go on.

"We felt very deeply insulted by what was in the umpire's report and there seems to have been no evidence given. I felt the matter had been resolved but it now seems the umpires are reluctant.

"We feel it is extraordinary that we are ready to come out and the umpires say they cannot continue. It is very sad. I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I want the tour to continue," said Shahriyar ahead of the five-match one-day between England and Pakistan.

The match referee Mike Procter said talks would continue. "Following issues raised by the onfield umpires, which need to be resolved, meetings will be held between the match referee and both teams after play to determine whether any further play will be scheduled in this match."

Umpires have refused to stand in Tests before although the majority of major flashpoint incidents came in the days before the introduction of 'neutral' officials. Back in 1973, English umpire Arthur Fagg stayed off the field during a Test match between England and the West Indies at Edgbaston after being upset by West Indian reaction to his decision to give England's Geoff Boycott not out, although he did later take the field.

And in Dunedin in 1980 the West Indies briefly refused to take the field during a Test in protest at New Zealand official Fred Goodall.

At Faisalabad in 1987, Pakistan's Shakoor Rana refused to stand until he'd received an apology from England captain Mike Gatting after the pair had had an on-field row. Gatting scribbled an apology and the match continued.

Pakistan's 1992 tour of England was blighted by allegations of ball-tampering with pace great Waqar Younis, now Pakistan's bowling coach, coming under intense scrutiny.

And in 2000 Waqar himself received a one-match ban for ball tampering following a one-day international against South Africa in Sri Lanka while Azhar Mahmood was fined for "abetting" the infringment in the same match.

The Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, ruled out of the current series with because of an ankle injury, received a reprimand in November 2002 for the same offence after a Test match against Zimbabwe in Harare.

And the following year, in May, Shoaib was given a two-match ban for ball tampering after a one-day international against New Zealand in Dambulla.