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Clear me or Eng tour is over: Inzamam

Inzamam's threat could see Twenty20 int'l and ensuing ODI series against England abandoned.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2006 16:03 IST

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq issued a stark warning to cricket chiefs on Tuesday: Clear me of ball tampering or the tour of England is finished.

The star batsman faces an International Cricket Council (ICC) disciplinary hearing in London on Friday for his part in the events that saw Pakistan forfeit the fourth Test against England at The Oval on Sunday - the first time this had happened in the 129-year-history of Test cricket - after they had been found guilty of ball-tampering.

So far the controversy has been viewed primarily as a dispute between Pakistan and Australia's Darrell Hair, the senior on-field umpire.

But it emerged on Tuesday that England coach Duncan Fletcher had spoken to match referee Mike Procter on Sunday morning, leading to suggestions that a complaint from the hosts may have sparked the whole incident.

Pakistan's refusal to take the field after tea saw England awarded a victory theat gave them a 3-0 win in the four-match series.

Inzamam's threat could now see next week's Twenty20 international and ensuing five-match one-day series against England abandoned, with the cost to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) estimated at 10 million pounds.

The skipper faces charges of ball-tampering as well as bringing the game into disrepute.

His case will be considered by ICC chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle who presided over the first three Tests.

If found guilty of the disrepute charge, Inzamam could be banned for the entire one-day series.

But it is the ostensibly lesser charge of ball-tampering, carrying with it the stigma of cheating, that threatens to derail the tour.

"We will wait for the decision and then make up our minds but it would be difficult for the players to play on if we are labelled cheats," Inzamam told Britain's Daily Express newspaper.

Hair, standing with West Indies' Billy Doctrove, angered Pakistan when, at the end of the 46th over of England's second innings on Sunday, he signalled the award of five penalty runs.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan said Monday that for his side, who'd worked hard to overcome the fallout from previous ball-tampering accusations, this was 'a slur on the reputation of the Pakistan team and a slur on Pakistan itself'.

Inzamam apologised to spectators deprived of more than a day's cricket at The Oval but said: "The issue of being labelled cheats, though, was too important to let lie."

On Monday both Shaharyar and Inzamam called on the ICC to prevent the 53-year-old Hair, a veteran of 76 Tests, from ever standing in one of their matches again.

Inzamam added: "Since I took over as Pakistan captain three years ago there have been no issues with ball tampering - except when Darrell Hair has been umpiring."

He said he had had no warning of Sunday's controversial decision.

"The first I knew of this issue was when Darrell Hair decided to change the ball. He didn't mention a bowler who was at fault - my decision to take Umar Gul off at the time was a purely cricket decision, and he didn't mention any evidence, only that he was changing the ball.

"At first he refused to show me the ball... I argued that it was my right to see it and he relented. There was nothing wrong with it."

Pakistan, who were in a strong position to win the match, twice missed a chance to take the field after tea when the umpires came out, a move that cost them plenty of sympathy from neutrals.

"We didn't want to play on under the cloud of being called cheats," Inzamam said. "I asked the boys if they had done anything wrong and they all said no."

And Inzamam was adamant that at no stage while they were conducting their protests did anyone tell Pakistan they risked losing the match.

"Darrell Hair came in to warn us that if we didn't come out we would face another charge - at no point did he say we would forfeit the game."

Shaharyar insisted Pakistan were not "dictating to the ICC" over who could stand in their games.

"Our case is somewhat different: our case is not that Darrell Hair is a bad umpire, he is not, Darrell Hair is a good umpire.

"Our team has a problem with his attitude on the field, that attitude has upset our team more than once and if the ICC is sensitive to boards it will take due cogniscance of what we have said."

Pakistan officials have repeatedly spoken of the cordial relations between their team and England. But these could be jeopardised by revelations regarding Fletcher's conversation with Procter.

"Duncan did have a meeting with the referee but that is not unusual," said England spokesman James Avery. "There was no complaint about the condition of the ball."

Nevertheless the ECB refused to specify what was said during the talks between the former Rhodesia teammates.

Shaharyar called Monday for an independent inquiry into both the forfeit and Pakistan's alleged ball-tampering, having slammed the umpires for their "intransigence" and saying Hair had "trained his guns" on the team.

But PCB director Abbas Zaidi accepted the result would stand.

"We realise that the result will not be changed now," he said. "But we are protesting at the nature of the forfeit."