Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay – Inzamam & Co refuse to take the field, umpire Darrel Hair awards Oval test to England
August 20, 2006 - Generally, the result on the scorecard, depicts that the team has either won or lost. On a rare occasion, the result shows the match to be tied or decided by the D/L method. But the 4th test at The Oval on the Pakistan tour of England in 2006 mentions a strange phase - England awarded the match (opposition refused to play).
It instantly reminds you of your childhood when you did not have a decision going your way and decided to take your bat and stomp off from the playing area. While Pakistan's decision under Inzamam-ul-Haq may seem similar on face value, the matter gained significance when it got tagged with national pride and integrity of the captain, as well as the team.
Pakistan were 0-2 down in the 4-match test series but had done well in the Oval test. They had bowled out the hosts for 173 on the back of 4 wickets each from Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul and then piled up 504 runs on the board in their first innings. Their top run-scorers were Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat and Mohammad Yousuf.
As England were looking decently poised at 298 for 4 in their second innings, on-field umpire Darrell Hair ruled that Pakistan had tampered with the ball after a routine ball-check. Hair not only docked 5 runs from the Pakistan total but also changed the ball.
What added to the drama was that Hair and the Pakistan team already had a frosty relationship, with loads of suspicion from both sides.
Disagreeing vehemently with the umpire, the Pakistan team debated the decision at tea time and decided not to take the field after the break. By the time skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq relented, after about 45 minutes, Hair awarded the match to England, dislodging the bails to mark the end of the test in melodramatic fashion.
Overnight measures to convince the umpires did not bear fruit. Later, in an ICC enquiry, Pakistan were cleared of the ball-tampering charges. However, captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was banned for 4 ODIs for bringing the game into disrepute, which led him to miss the Champions Trophy.
"This game is about more than winning and losing," Inzamam said in an interview after the test, "it's about respect and countries come first. If someone says to me you are a cheat and Pakistan is doing wrong things, my first priority is to my country. We were ready to play. The main issue was not whether we were going onto the field, it was whether the ball had been tampered with or not. It's very simple. There are 26 cameras there [from Sky Sports] and nobody's picked anything."
After two years, Pakistan Cricket Board lobbied to get the result of the test changed from forfeited to a draw from the ICC. However, the u-turn did not go down well with the MCC who intervened a year later, citing that not upholding the laws can lead to a dangerous precedent and restored the result of the match as a forfeit.
The test thus became the first instance of a forfeiture in test cricket in 129 years of the history of the game. Hair, who had agreed to retire in exchange for USD 500,000 took his case to an employment tribunal, alleging racism. An out of court settlement was reached.
Hair did umpire in test cricket post the controversy but an uncompromising personality meant that he had to retire soon after.
Inzamam-ul-Haq maintains that his decision to delay taking the field was correct as it was a matter of honour for him, and the country.
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