Ball tampering interrupts day 4

A controversial decision to punish Pakistan for ball tampering has marred the fourth day of the Oval test between England and Pakistan. Umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove apparently suspected the Pakistani side of altering the condition of the ball during the afternoon session, and acted immediately to change the ball and punish the fielding side.

The relevant laws and playing conditions combined dictate that, in the case of ball tampering, the umpires should immediately award five penalty runs to the batting side and change the ball to one approved by the batsmen. Hair and Doctrove did exactly this, changing a ball which had been reverse-swinging to an older, softer one that offered little to the bowling side. It made little obvious impact to the state of play, but the implication that Pakistan had been deliberately cheating is not one which will be overlooked.

This decision is sure to be a controversial one, not least because there was no apparent warning given to the fielding side in advance, and no visible evidence of ball tampering has yet been seen in television footage. The umpires and the match referee are likely to release a statement outlining the reasons for the decision at the close of play, and whether clear evidence of ball tampering is presented or not, the controversy will almost certainly overshadow the final test of an entertaining series.

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