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Akhtar handed two-match ban

Match referee GR Vishwanath has found Rawalpindi Express Akthar guilty of tampering with the ball.

india Updated: May 22, 2003 04:17 IST

Pakistan's pace ace Shoaib Akhtar was Wednesday banned for two matches for ball tampering during a one-day tri-series match in Sri Lanka.

Akhtar, 27, was charged after being spotted on television by the third umpire during a 22-run victory Tuesday against New Zealand that secured Pakistan a place in the final.

International Cricket Council match referee Gundappa Viswanath of India viewed video footage that showed Akhtar working on the ball and called Akhtar, his captain Rashid Latif and team manager Haroon Rashid for a hearing.

Akhtar, who pleaded not guilty, has also been fined 75 percent of his match fees, Viswanath said.

Viswanath said he found Akhtar guilty of an attempt to alter the condition of the ball, and the two-match ban was given taking his previous disciplinary record into account.

"Tampering with the ball is contrary to the laws and spirit of cricket. It is an unfair attempt to gain any advantage by altering the condition of the ball," Viswanath said in a statement.

"I consider this offense to be of a serious nature and the penalty imposed reflects this view," he said. "Players are aware that they can clean the seams of the ball under the direct supervision of an umpire."

The first match Akhtar will be forced to miss will be Friday's final against New Zealand. He will also have to sit out the first one-dayer in a three-match tour of England next month.

Akhtar's misdemeanor was spotted by third umpire Gamini Silva of Sri Lanka, who saw replays of the incident on television and brought it to the notice of the match referee.

Silva also talked to the on-field umpires, Australia's Daryl Harper and Sri Lanka's Peter Manuel.

The ICC's code of conduct for players prescribes a fine up to 100 percent of a player's match fee or a ban for two one-dayers, or both, for such an offense.

Akhtar, who became the first bowler to break the 100-mile per hour barrier during the recent World Cup, has rarely been away from controversy since making his international debut five years ago.

The pace bowler's bowling action has been under scrutiny after the umpires reported him to the ICC during a tri-series in Australia three years ago.

Last year, Akhtar was banned for a one-dayer by match referee Clive Lloyd of the West Indies during a tour of Zimbabwe. He was accused of hurling a water bottle at spectators who had been heckling him.

He was also reprimanded for a ball tampering attempt in a Test match during the same tour.

He was warned by Pakistan Cricket Board's chief, Tauquir Zia, that this tournament was his last chance to put his international career on track.

First Published: May 21, 2003 12:52 IST