|Ground:||Kennington Oval, Kennington|
|Scorecard:||England v Pakistan|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 22nd August 2006
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf phoned the country's cricket captain to offer his support in the ball-tampering row that wrecked the fourth Test against England, a senior official said Monday.
News of Musharraf's call to Inzamam-ul-Haq came after demonstrators held small but angry rallies in several cities, torching pictures of Australian umpire Darrell Hair and chanting: "You are a mini-Hitler".
Inzamam was charged Monday with ball tampering and bringing the game into disrepute by the International Cricket Council following the debacle on the fourth day of the Test at the Oval on Sunday.
"The president spoke to captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and supported the stance the team took in protest against the allegations of ball tampering," a senior government official told AFP, adding that the call took place on Sunday.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said Musharraf also spoke to the team management soon after the dispute erupted.
Pakistan refused to take to the field after tea to protest at Hair's decision to award five runs to England and change an allegedly tampered-with ball.
The umpires ruled they had forfeited the match and awarded the Test to England. England won the series 3-0.
Inzamam himself said he kept his team in the pavilion to defend his country's pride. He added that the ICC should not let Hair take charge of any more matches involving Pakistan.
Ball-tampering is a sensitive issue here as the Pakistani team has faced similar accusations in the past, while Pakistan have also repeatedly complained about Hair's umpiring.
"Why does everything happen against us from the end that Darrell Hair is umpiring?" Inzamam told Pakistan's GEO television. "We expect the ICC not to put him in other matches (involving Pakistan)."
He added: "The pride of the nation has been hurt, we have been unfairly labelled as cheats."
The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Shariyar Khan, said accusations that Pakistan players had tampered with the ball were a "slur" against the team and the country.
Local fans and former cricket greats alike backed master batsman Inzamam's decision.
Young cricketers and dozens of activists from Pakistan cricket legend Imran Khan's political party, Tehreek-e-Insaaf, gathered in the northern city of Rawalpindi adjoining Islamabad.
"We took out a rally from the Rawalpindi Press club and we have condemned the biased attitude of Hair against Pakistan," party official Syed Zahid Hussain Kazmi told AFP.
Meanwhile about 50 teenagers gathered at an Islamabad cricket ground where they torched pictures of Hair and shouted "We want justice from ICC", witnesses said.
"The students wanted to express their sentiments against Hair's decision," said Islamabad Cricket Association president Shakil Sheikh.
Another 50 people protested in the eastern city of Lahore, witnesses said.
Protesters at the rallies chanted references to Hitler, apparently inspired by Khan's newspaper column in which he wrote: "Hair is one of those characters, when he wears the white umpire's coat, he metamorphoses into a mini-Hitler."
"Inzamam-ul-Haq and the team were in their right to protest. The pride of an entire people has been tarnished by his ludicrous and highly insensitive decision," Khan said in the Nation.
Another former captain, Rameez Raja, said Hair was seemingly biased against players from the subcontinent. Hair repeatedly called Sri Lanka off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for "chucking" in Melbourne in 1995/6.
"His arbitrary and insensitive style of judgement sparked an absolutely needless controversy that has put the Test match in serious jeopardy and brought infamy to the game," he wrote in the same newspaper.
A dissenting voice came from former Pakistan skipper Javed Miandad who said they should have stayed in the game and had committed a mistake for which Inzamam could be penalised.
"Pakistan committed mistake after mistake and put themselves in a no-win situation," Miandad told AFP. "Whoever has taken the decision but it's the skipper who will face the punishment."
And former test cricketer Sarfraz Nawaz -- known as the "Sultan of Reverse Swing" for pioneering the technique -- blamed the Pakistan Cricket Board for managing the affair badly.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)