Another five-run penalty

Nice observation from Jagadish:

One of Inzamam’s first acts on returning to the Pakistan team for his farewell test was to accidentally palm the ball onto the helmet behind Kamran Akmal, thereby costing Pakistan five runs.

38.4 Mohammad Asif to Prince, no run, outside off, and he gets the edge at last, falls short of Inzamam at slip, Akmal may have reached that if he had dived, the ball comes off Inzamam’s hand, rolls away and into the helmet, 5 penalty runs given

The significance of this is that it was a rather uneventful act in comparison to the last time he/his team were involved in an act which cost five runs.

Delicious irony and coincidence, considering this happened just one day before Darrell Hair withdrew his allegations of racial discrimination by the ICC.

Famous by nickname

Everyone in cricket knows who Inzi is. He’s big and cumbersome, like a sleepy giant, yet with a sharpened wit. He’s a throwback to the pre-tracksuit era but, when he chooses, he is quick of feet. He is a potato, aloo and rarely – if ever – hated by anyone. He clumps drives rather than strokes them and yet, for such a big batsman, he is lightning quick to sweep the spinners. He’s just a great big legend and his illustrious career, not without controversy or incident, is over.

What are your favourite memories of Inzamam?

The many varied faces of Pakistan

Curious first day between South Africa and Pakistan. I fancy Pakistan against most teams, through sheer force of talent, yet you can never be certain which side will turn up. Will it be the aggressive, gifted team with a hunger for the extraordinary? Or will it be the blind, hapless tourists?

Both sides played against South Africa today. They lost two wickets in the morning but fought hard. They laid a foundation after lunch before counterattacking with verve afterwards, with Younis and Yasir putting on 133. Then, after a 15-minute cup-of-tea, crazy madness ensued and they shot themselves in the head with three near-identical dismissals: two hooks and a pull. Pakistan fell for the bait like a desperate, emaciated salmon. Younis defended the three careless shots, insisting that it demonstrated the side’s aggressive nature. Well that’s all very well if it works, Younis…which it did not. Both he and Yasir ought to have ended the day unbeaten with three figures to their name.

Inzamam might yet produce one of his herculean innings, but which side of his side will turn up tomorrow?

Cricket, is it?

A young Pakistani, whose parents hail from Lahore, noticed me reading Andrew Strauss’s book on the bus this afternoon. “Cricket, is it” (it wasn’t a question, more a statement; “is it” is relaxed, Londonish ghetto-talk for “eh”. Like an Australian would say “Ahhh cricket eh?” I am your professor, heed my knowledge).

“Yes, cricket,” I answered. “You like cricket?” was my pathetic, tired attempt at continuing the conversation.

“Ah is it! Cricket innit, you know” he offered, which was either an abrupt end to our brief chat or the makings of an entire diatribe – I wasn’t sure. Instead, I chose to big myself up and told him I was a journalist.

“Cricket journalist? What paper is it?” (correct usage of “is it” there) and he knew Cricinfo, his favourite site and so on. Immediately I regretted telling him – every other word he uttered was either Inzy, ICC or Hair. I couldn’t tell him much – the hearing was mid-way through and is due to run on tomorrow too. He was still at school, yet knew all about the hearing, its location, Inzamam and so on. Hilariously he assumed I’d be best friends with Mr Inzy, not to mention drinking pals with Daz and Billy D. “Can’t you call ‘em innit? Call Inzy, is it!”

The passion a sport can ignite in people astounds me sometimes.

England finally compete

At last. After seven one-day thrashings this summer, England finally evaded another whipping with a far improved performance against Pakistan.

They still lost, though.

But nevermind. Crack open the champagne and celebrate for England managed to take Pakistan close. Andrew Strauss batted with great intent – it was a relief to see him leading from the front, in particular skipping down the pitch to disrupt Mohammad Asif’s length. And ol’ Asif really does hate batsmen doing that! Strauss won that particular battle. A pretty good innings, then, helped by some Pakistani fielding at its most hilarious.

I don’t know if they took their eye off the ball, figuratively speaking (considering their series lead, and England’s general uselessness), or if The Rose Bowl is a particularly difficult ground on which to field…but they were hapless. The stand-out performer, and I use that word sparingly and, in this case cautiously, was Inzamam! His elephantine tumbles sent shockwaves…sorry, couldn’t resist. He was really good, Inzy, and batted quite brilliantly to close the game out at the end.

Good things:

  • Younis Khan’s batting. He is a terrific cricketer, and character
  • Younis smashing a four and immediately marching towards the point fielder, shouting and waving
  • Shahid Afridi’s misfield which made him look like a real wally
  • Andrew Strauss’s batting and intent in the field. His relaxed demeanour and wry smile have gone. Mind you, losing that many one-day games is enough to break even the most fierce Cherie Blair grin
  • Watching Ian Bell get hit in the family jewels, via Strauss’s flat-batted pull shot. Corrrrr.
  • Watching Billy Doctrove nearly get hit in the family jewels, star-jumping out of the way like a ballet dancer on acid

Bad things:

  • Rikki Clarke. A first-ball duck, and a very poor and at times clueless spell of bowling. Young and inexperienced, but this was a very special effort
  • Sajid Mahmood. Clearly a gifted bowler, he desperately needs Flintoff or Harmison at mid-off to advise him. He’s going from wayward to waywarder in each match
  • Pakistan’s fielding. It will cost them the World Cup.

The bandwagon continues at Nottingham. Rock on.

Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?

Just had a brain flash, more often known in my world as a brain fart. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? If you assume the ICC as the court, or the judge, then Pakistan are the party being tried. But without evidence, surely this incident should not have progressed to its current state so quickly? Pakistan haven’t so much been tried as convicted. Not even the BCCI are coming to their assistance and bailing them out.

I ought to point out my stance on this, or rather my own confusion. I don’t know where I stand, because no evidence has been put forth. None of the 26 cameramen saw anything but, as I said yesterday, if Darrell Hair honestly believed the ball had unlawfully altered in shape then he was perfectly in his right to call Inzamam-ul-Haq’s team to account. Pakistan, then – in my opinion – ought not to have reacted so strongly. In doing so, they almost came across as the blushing cheater at the back of the classroom. That’s at least what they might have appeared to be: guilty. But their knee-jerk reaction was inevitable and fully understandable too given Hair’s notoriously gloomy reputation in the subcontinent, and past history with Sri Lanka and others.

Hair is no fool, though. Courting controversy over eleven years is not something an umpire can do without reason. He will have known, in his gut, the storm he would provoke by making these allegations; I simply cannot believe he is the heartless dictator people are making him out to be. He’s a straight-talking bloke merely doing his job, isn’t he?

All’s fair and rosey in retrospect, of course, but it’s an interesting thought comparing this incident to the legal system. If nothing else, at least the ICC should learn from this mess. Well…we can hope

Should Darrell Hair resign?

On the one hand he has done everything to the letter of the law, and indeed upheld the laws and regulations of the game in his role as umpire. On the other, should he perhaps have given Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, notice of his fears about the ball being tampered with before docking runs?

Let’s face it: he should not have umpired in this series. If an official courts such controversy, and isn’t trusted by one particular team, the ICC should be reactive enough to accomodate. After all, Hair is no stranger to these incidents. Throughout this series, and certainly based on the feedback we have received on Cricinfo, fans do not like him; in fact they detest him, in some quarters. Imran Khan was even moved to call him a fundamentalist umpire.

What next, then? Should he stand his ground, be supported by the ICC and resume his duties? Or retire now with his reputation hanging by a thread? (click here to vote if you’re reading via a feed / RSS). Leave your comments below and vote.

Voting closed (see results)

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Inzamam-ul-Haq charged with ball tampering

The ICC has charged Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq with ball tampering, and with bringing the game into disrepute.

Both Inzamam’s charges will be considered during a hearing to be conducted by the ICC chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle. Madugalle has been appointed to chair the hearing because Mike Proctor, the match referee at The Oval, was involved in the incidents that took place on Sunday afternoon and is likely to be asked to present evidence to the hearing.

Inzamam has been charged, as captain, with a breach of level 2.10 of the ICC code which relates to changing the condition of the ball in breach of Law 42.3 of the Laws of Cricket.

Inzamam has also been charged with a breach of C2 at level 3 of the code which relates to conduct that brings the player or the game into disrepute. This charge was brought by Doctrove and Hair, along with Peter Hartley and Trevor Jesty, the third and fourth umpires, following a meeting on Monday morning.

Unless there is some photographic evidence that we do not yet know about, the ball tampering charge is likely to descend to a messy farce, with just the umpire’s word versus that of Inzamam.

The ‘bringing game into disrepute’ charge, I think, will be an open and shut case. The nightmare scenario is that if Inzamam is found innocent of ball tampering, and guilty of bringing the game into disrepute.

Pakistan will then feel that they were found innocent, and punished for it.  The fact is, they are going to be punished for their ‘post tea sit in’. However, sides have been taken, and the facts are going to get lost in the noise and shouting.

Whatever the outcome, it certainly is not going to be very edifying for cricket.

Video of Inzamam falling over his stumps

Inzamam-ul-Haq is a man-mountain. A huge, hulking figure who rarely bothers breaking into a sweat yet is one of the very finest batsman Pakistan has produced. Despite all that, he is still seven parts great to three parts comical – and his dismissal yesterday rather summed him up.

He had played beautifully, cutting powerfully past point to get off the mark and launching a counterattack on England…before he lost his balance. Monty Panesar, bowling around the wicket, tossed one up on his leg stump which turned away and Inzy, attempting a sweep missed it…and lost his balance.

Tumbling over his stumps – he flicked off the bails with his arm – he actually did really well not to crush the stumps completely! If you look at the video below you’ll see the stumps not move an inch. Brilliant to watch – the sound (it’s called music, I think) is absolutely dreadful but, somehow, adds to the whole comical atmosphere of it all.

If you can’t see the video below, click here

Eng v Pak, 1st Test, Lord’s

Tomorrow’s first Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s promising to be absolutely fascinating. The weather is set fair (possible thunderstorms at weekend but nothing major) and though both sides are afflicted by injuries, there will no let-up of excitement.

Pakistan and England flags waved by a Pakistani supporter

It is often said Pakistan are the most talented cricketing nation in the world. This was no truer than in the 1980s and 90s when, with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis terrorising batsmen’s toes with their ferocious yorkers, and batsmen such as Saeed Anwar played with the most elasticsed wrists, they were a formidable outfit.

But it is Bob Woolmer who has transformed them from a team with explosive potential (the very ethos of Pakistani cricket) to one playing with greater responsibility and consistency. They are a fine, fine side and will be a treat to watch. The other day, Woolmer compared Inzamam-ul-Haq, his captain, to Hansie Cronje who he coached with such success in the 1990s. Like Cronje, Inzamam – that most laconic, almost regal of characters – is respected and adored by his troops.

Woolmer’s not to everyone’s tastes, but he is the most flexible, willing of coaches; indeed it is he who has helped nurture the importance of religion to the team: they all pray together, formally.

Beware Pakistan, England. And likewise Pakistan, watch out for a resurgant England. Trapped and caged by injuries and uncertainty in recent weeks, they are hurting. Nothing less than 100% will be acceptable at Lord’s; more so for England it is vital they win the first Test if they’re to prevent a trampling by Pakistan.

I’m on ball-by-ball at Cricinfo tomorrow along with Jenny (scorecard here) so perhaps you can let us know how we’re doing in the match “post” thread thing, here at the CoU, which will appear tomorrow morning before play.

Rock on.