England v Pakistan, 4th Test, The Oval August 21, 2006

Troubled times ahead

Shahrayar Khan: working hard behind the scenes © Getty Images
While the debate rages about the rights and wrongs of actions on the fourth day at The Oval, the attention will soon turn to the future and what will happen to the various parties in the days ahead. Here is Cricinfo's take on what to expect

The ICC is caught between a rock and a hard place. Going by their own regulations, they have little choice but to back their own on-field umpires who, whatever might be said about common sense, acted within the law. Given that its match referees have a track record of stamping down heavily on minor offences such as dissent and slow over-rates, refusal to resume a Test match is a serious offence inviting heavy punishment. However, Pakistan have been portrayed as the victims and unless credible evidence can be furnished about ball tampering, any action against them could lead to further schisms in world cricket as any such fines are likely to be fiercely opposed by the PCB and it in turn might well be backed by other Asian block members.

Pakistan Cricket Board
The PCB is sure to go on the attack over the ball-tampering accusations that triggered the post-tea no show. They have made no secret of their distrust towards Darrell Hair in the past, and they are likely to use this incident to claim high moral ground. They are likely to push for Hair's removal from the elite panel, and settle for nothing less than a guarantee that he would take no part in matches involving Pakistan. Where the Pakistani management are in thin ice is in the claims made by Shahryar Khan, the board chairman, that the team's protest was only a brief one and that they were willing to resume. Given that the officials twice made their way to the middle - and some reports claim that the umpires asked them what they were doing in between - they will find it hard to maintain that the team's non appearance was a short-term statement.

Darrell Hair
Hair, it can be argued, acted within the law. If he believed that ball had been tampered, he was well within his rights to take action. But common sense is as important as the letter, and although his might cast more light on what happened, it does seem that Hair failed in that regard. The ICC had to back his actions yesterday - had it not then it would have been open season for any side to walk off when they objected to an official's decision. But it is increasingly hard to see him being appointed to games involving Pakistan - or any Asian country - and the ICC has stated that it will not agree to its members dictating who they will and will not accept. To drop him from the Elite panel would be a tacit acknowledgment that he had got it wrong, but possibly a face-saving retirement might not be too far away.

England & Wales Cricket Board
They have come out of this as the innocent party, and the decision to refund Sunday's spectators 40% of their ticket price (and Monday's in full) was something they were not obliged to do. The one area where the ECB was rightly slammed was for the complete lack of any announcements to the crowd from tea-time onwards, leaving most of the 20,000 crowd relying on radios or word of mouth for information. That was unacceptable and must be addressed.

Match Referee
This role has been subject to much criticism ever since its creation more than a decade ago, and there has been widespread murmurings of discontent about what many believe was Mike Procter's lack of decisive action yesterday. Inzamam has been quoted on a TV channel as saying that the match referee played a part in persuading the Pakistan team to return to field, and if that is the case, then Procter clearly did not see the match as having been forfeited when the umpires took off the bail. It may turn out he was working like a beaver to resolve the situation, but he has a lot of explaining to do. May be this will lead to a review of the role of the match referee, and that might be the only good out to come out of this sorry episode.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo