|Ground:||Kennington Oval, Kennington|
|Scorecard:||England v Pakistan|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 29th September 2006
Darrell Hair's career as a leading international umpire was left in the balance after the Australian official was withdrawn from next month's Champions Trophy in India because of security concerns.
Hair's decision, taken alongside West Indian colleague Billy Doctrove, to penalise Pakistan five runs for altering the condition of the ball during the fourth Test against England at The Oval last month, was called into question Thursday when Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was cleared of ball-tampering
However, the star batsman was banned for four one-day internationals by a two-day International Cricket Council (ICC) disciplinary hearing for bringing cricket into disrepute after his side twice refused to take the field after tea on the fourth day.
That led the umpires to award the Test to England after Pakistan were deemed to have forfeited the match - the first time a game had finished in such circumstances in the 129-year history of Test cricket.
But there was an implied criticism of that decision when the full text of adjudicator Ranjan Madugalle's verdict was released late Thursday.
The ICC's chief match referee concluded that, were such a situation to recur, "the umpires and other officials should do everything possible to ensure the resumption of play.
"And they should not return to the field of play and then declare the match to be forfeited unless and until they are absolutely sure that the team is refusing to play the rest of the match.
"All other options should first be exhausted, involving discussions with the team captains and management."
Hair, speaking at an Oval news conference Thursday, said he accepted the ICC's decision to withdraw him from the Champions Trophy but added: "Of course I wish to keep on being an umpire.
"If other people consider I am still good enough to umpire I will continue," Hair, 54 on Saturday and a veteran of 76 Tests, told reporters.
"I umpire matches in good faith and take the decisions I feel necessary on the field."
The experienced umpire, who was involved in another cricket flashpoint when he no-balled Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing in 1995, said he bore no ill-will to Inzamam.
"I will be the first to shake hands, I want that to happen," he said.
Hair, whose contract with the ICC expires in March 2008, said he remained confident in his ability.
"I will still go out there and do my umpiring to the best of my ability ... I'm pretty bloody good at it.
"If a mistake's been made that's fine but when I make that mistake in good faith I have to be happy with it."
And he highlighted how he'd not been alone in his decision.
"There were two umpires and the decision for unfair play cannot take place unless the umpires agree."
Hair denied he was a "controversial" umpire, saying his history too often obscured his current performances.
"Unfortunately it gets attached to something that happened 10 or 12 years ago. I have umpired Sri Lankan Test matches and one-day internationals since 2003 and there have been no complaints."
E-mails published by the ICC after the Test revealed that Hair had offered to stand down in return for a one-off payment of 500,000 dollars to cover the remainder of his contract, an offer he later rescinded.
But the ICC, following fears expressed by Indian officials, said they were pulling Hair out of the Champions Trophy because of "safety and security concerns for Darrell and those who will be around him".
Meanwhile Inzamam indicated he will accept his punishment - his fifth in the last 19 months of international cricket and eleventh of his career.
"Since this is the minimum possible suspension I do not think we would appeal," he said.
"And since the next four matches start with the ICC Champions Trophy next month, I won't be able to play the tournament."
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan, who reiterated his organisation's call for Hair not to stand in Pakistan matches, made it clear the PCB still wanted the ICC to carry out an investigation into the umpire's conduct.
"We have already written to the ICC asking them to investigate Mr Hair's conduct in this Test and bringing the game into disrepute."
Shaharyar added that the Pakistan people as a whole felt "vindicated" by the decision to clear Inzamam, 36, of ball-tampering.
"People take cricket very seriously and that is why I say that every strata of society in Pakistan is very sensitive about it's cricket players and what they represent.
"The people of Pakistan would feel vindicated that this sensitive issue of cheating there has been a clear, unequivocal verdict."
Former Sri Lanka captain Madugalle made it clear why he'd found Inzamam not guilty of ball-tampering.
"In my judgment, the marks are as consistent with normal wear and tear of a match ball after 56 overs as they are with deliberate human interventions."
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)