Exclusive ICC hearing into the Oval furore September 26, 2006

Umpires disagreed over timing of ball change

Darrell Hair and Bill Doctrove: initially on different wavelengths © Getty Images
Pakistan's defence against the charges of ball tampering and subsequent forfeiture of the Oval Test against England will rely heavily on the initial disagreement between Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, the two on-field umpires, over the changing of the ball, Cricinfo has learnt.

Hair and Doctrove changed the ball in the 56th over of England's second innings at on the fourth afternoon. Hair then awarded England five penalty runs, indicating that the ball had been tampered with.

But Cricinfo has learnt that Doctrove, as written in his match report on the incident, was initially of the opinion that the umpires allow play to carry on for a few more overs to help identify the cause of the change in the ball's condition. Eventually, though, Hair is thought to have reasoned that if both umpires were in agreement that the condition of the ball had been altered then they should change it immediately. Doctrove then agreed and the ball was duly replaced.

Legally, this development has no effect on the case; the fact that both umpires consulted and eventually agreed on the final action means that they have acted in accordance with Law 42.3, on ball tampering, which states that umpires shall change the ball "after consultation."

But Pakistan's lawyers, DL Piper, are expected to seize upon this initial difference in opinion to argue that Hair had acted in haste. "This is a key aspect of the defence and it is a strong point in favour of Pakistan that the tampering charges are unjustified," a source pointed out.

As no specific incident was highlighted and no individual accused, Inzamam-ul-Haq, as captain, faces the charge on behalf of the team. Backed up by the lack of any incriminating video evidence ­ though it isn't required, definitively proving any misconduct becomes additionally problematic, as the source pointed out: "It is difficult for the ICC to prove ball tampering unless they actually catch someone doing it."

If the ball tampering charge is not proven, then Pakistan are likely to argue in favour of dropping the second charge against Inzamam, of bringing the game into disrepute by refusing to play. Pakistan's contention will be that one led to the other, that they were first falsely accused and thus had no choice but to protest.

It has also emerged that Mike Procter, the ICC match referee, failed to inform Pakistan of their forfeiture soon after the decision had been taken by the umpires in the afternoon. "Hair instructed Procter to tell Pakistan that they had forfeited the game in the afternoon. Procter failed to do so and officially, much later at around 10 pm, did they learn that the Test had been forfeited," claimed the source.

The ICC has refused to confirm or deny these revelations. A spokesman told Cricinfo that "Ranjan Madugalle will look at all the evidence provided to him by various parties and make a judgment based on that."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo