England v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, The Rose Bowl September 5, 2006

Akhtar cleared of wrongdoing

Cricinfo staff
  shares



Shoaib Akhtar: under the spotlight again © Getty Images

Shoaib Akhtar and the rest of the Pakistan team were cleared of any wrongdoing after a controversial incident during the third one-day international against England at the Rose Bowl.

Pictures from Sky Sports appeared to show Akhtar flicking his thumb at the ball as he walked back to his mark, but Mike Procter, the match referee, issued a statement saying that no action would be taken: "After viewing television footage the match umpires have decided no action should be taken against any Pakistan players."

It is quite possible that Shoaib was removing mud or dirt from the ball, but if so that is still illegal as only the umpire can do so. The incident did not appear to be seen by either official. Former England captain Michael Atherton, who was commentating for Sky at the time, invited the viewers to: "make your own minds up" after watching the footage. Pat Murphy, on Radio 5 Live, accused Sky of "power without responsibility". However, Nasser Hussain, analysing the incident after the innings, was more critical: "At best he's been very, very silly. To do that in the present climate is stupid."

However, Younis Khan, the Pakistan vice-captain, played down the incident. "In my eyes it looked like he was picking some dust," Younis told reporters. "Why do we make it a big issue every time the ball is reverse-swinging? In the last 20 years it has been made a big issue but to me it is a small issue, cricket is a gentleman's game so let's make it simple. Reverse-swing is happening all the time - Australia do it, England did it in the Ashes last year - because pitches are dry, everybody is used to it in these conditions."

The incident comes within two weeks of the Oval fiasco, when Pakistan forfeited the fourth Test against England after being accused of ball-tampering.