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What We Remember

The Oval forfeit

How accusations of ball-tampering led to a first in Test cricket

David Hopps
David Hopps
Pakistan became the first team in 129 years to forfeit a Test, after taking umbrage at being punished for ball-tampering on the fourth day of the Oval Test of 2006 by the umpires, Australian Darrell Hair and West Indian Billy Doctrove.
What began simply as a five-run penalty soon escalated into a diplomatic standoff and an issue of national pride. Pakistan refused to take to the field after tea, and though they changed their minds later, the match was forfeited. amid confusion, when Hair, according to Wisden, "melodramatically removed the bails".
For Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, a change of ball and a five-run penalty represented allegations of cheating and was presented as a slur on the honour of his team and his country. As for Hair, whose relationship with Pakistan's cricketers had long been based on mutual suspicion - antipathy even - it emerged a few days later he had offered to retire in exchange for USD$500,000. He took his case to an employment tribunal, alleging racism. After an out-of-court settlement, he did umpire in Test cricket again, but he had become a divisive, as well as uncompromising, figure and soon retired.
Pakistan had first been accused of ball-tampering - by England, as it happened - in 1992, a time when the secrets of reverse swing were not widely understood and were hotly debated.
The issue dragged on for years in ICC committee rooms. In 2008, the ICC changed the result to a draw, following political lobbying by the Pakistan board (the English authorities had long since tired of the whole business). But that reversed decision was disputed by the MCC, on the grounds that not to uphold the Laws set a "very dangerous" precedent, and the following year the ICC returned the result to an England victory.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps