England deny Fletcher claims
The England & Wales Cricket Board has denied claims in today's Daily Telegraph that Sunday's ball-tampering row was triggered by a visit by Duncan Fletcher, the coach, to Mike Procter, the match referee, before the start of the fourth day's play.
An ECB spokesman confirmed that Fletcher had met with Procter on Sunday morning but denied he had made a "specific complaint about the state of the ball". However, the newspaper went on to say that sources close to the team have stated that Fletcher played a part in drawing the officials' attention to certain issues.
"Duncan Fletcher visited the match referee's room before play [on Sunday], a practice that is not unusual during an international match," said the spokesman. "Because there is an ICC investigation ongoing we are unable to elaborate any further but we can confirm that no complaint about the match ball was registered. There were no complaints lodged about anything at all."
But Mike Dickson in the Daily Mail maintained the meeting had taken place. "There certainly did not appear to have been any other controversies in the match to have warranted a meeting with Procter," he noted, "and binoculars were unusually abundant on the England balcony during the match."
The paper also claimed that Mohammad Asif was the bowler who was causing concern to England. "According to sources at Lord's, Asif features in an report by officials on the match between Leicestershire and Somerset in late May."
No match officials were available for comment yesterday, and with Inzamam-ul-Haq's hearing scheduled for Friday, none would have said anything anyway. If true, however, it would explain Darrell Hair's sudden interest in the state of the ball on Sunday afternoon.
The report goes on to state that England's players were concerned on Saturday and notes that Marcus Trescothick was "spotted watching Pakistan's players through binoculars, presumably to ascertain what actions they were performing on the ball". It added that Fletcher had also made enquiries as to why Sky TV cameras were not following the ball more closely as it was passed around the Pakistan fielders during the Headingley Test.
If it turns out that Fletcher did make an approach to Procter about the ball then the good relations between the two sides, which have been maintained despite the row at The Oval, will almost certainly nosedive, adding to the possibility that the one-day series might become another casualty of the row.