Pakistan crawl home to face uncertain future

London: Pakistan limp home Thursday unlamented, unloved and unwanted by a country which had been prepared to grant them sanctuary while security threats make it impossible for them to play at home.

A profound sense of betrayal has poisoned relations between England and Pakistan since three players, including Test captain Salman Butt, were suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after a corruption investigation into the fourth test at Lord`s.

Butt and his two opening bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were accused by a British newspaper of accepting money to manipulate incidents within the match.

"This summer has clearly demonstrated that when there is a sniff of something in the air it devalues the whole game," England captain Andrew Strauss said.

"No one wants to play cricket in those circumstances. The players from both sides have been put under a lot of stress and pressure. The ICC need to leave no stone unturned and we need to be sure that every game of cricket from now on is not tarnished."

Strauss, speaking after his team had clinched the five-match one-day series on a balmy evening at the Rose Bowl, had seriously considered pulling out of the fourth match at Lord`s after his team were bizarrely accused of match-fixing by Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ejaz Butt.

The nadir of a tour which may rival England`s 1932-33 bodyline series in Australia in its implications for the game was reached soon afterwards on the same morning.

Nasty Edge

England batsman Jonathan Trott and Pakistan fast bowler Wahab Riaz had to be separated after an altercation in the pre-match nets session and Pakistan one-day captain Shahid Afridi said he had considered calling the police.

The usual banter between rival supporters has continued unabated but a nastier edge was evident.

"Are you going to throw the match and buy a corner shop with the proceeds?," one England supporter shouted at Afridi as he stepped off the Pakistan team bus before the day-night match.

The fiercely competitive British tabloids are not going to let up either. The ICC is investigating allegations of a suspicious run pattern in the third one-day match at the Oval based on a report in one newspaper and another featured pictures Thursday morning of fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar engaged in what it said could be construed as ball tampering.

Pakistan are scheduled to play series against South Africa and New Zealand before the 50 overs World Cup on the Indian subcontinent early next year.

They played a two-test series against Australia in England this year but, after Ijaz Butt`s outburst, prospects of the Pakistanis returning next year for a neutral series against scheduled tourists India have vanished.

"We are working with them on a number of (neutral) games, but we have to give it time," England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier said during the Lord`s one-day international.

"Time is a great healer, but now and probably next year is not the right time to consider that."

"If there is a cancer in the game, we have to get rid of it and it doesn`t matter where in the world it is and which team is involved."

Bureau Report