London: Pakistan's chaotic tour of England degenerated into near anarchy on the morning of the fourth one-day international at Lord's on Monday, a match the visitors went on to win by 38 runs.
The day began with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) threatening legal action against Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt following provocative comments about Friday's third match at the Oval which the tourists won by 23 runs.
England captain Andrew Strauss said his team had "strong misgivings" about taking the field after Butt told a television channel there had been "loud and clear talk in bookies' circles that some English players were paid enormous amounts of money to lose (Friday's) match".
The ECB had threatened legal action after PCB chairman Ijaz Butt accused England players of match fixing.
Match referee Jeff Crowe was then forced to intervene after a dispute in the nets between England batsman Jonathan Trott and Pakistan fast bowler Wahab Riaz. ECB chief executive David Collier said former New Zealand captain Crowe had dealt immediately with the incident which was now closed.
"I think feelings have been high in the last 24 hours. We don't hide behind that though. We admit feelings were strong so that is bound to spill over," Collier said. Against this unpromising background, an excellent match unfolded on a warm autumnal afternoon watched by an appreciative crowd. It ended under floodlights as Pakistan squared the five-match series 2-2 with one game remaining in Southampton on Wednesday.
The tour was, however, already irretrievably blighted by the suspensions of Pakistan test captain Salman Butt and teammates Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif after last month's fourth test at Lord's.
The bans followed an investigation into newspaper reports they had deliberately arranged for no-balls to be delivered during England's only innings.
Under one-day captain Shahid Afridi, Pakistan bounced back from defeat in the first two 50-over internationals to win at the Oval only to learn the International Cricket Council (ICC) had opened an investigation into the scoring pattern during their innings on Friday.
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said Britain's Sun newspaper had been told "a certain scoring pattern would emerge during certain stages of the match". "Broadly speaking that information appeared to be correct," Lorgat said.
Butt criticised Lorgat for making the information public without telling the PCB and then made his comments about England at the Oval match. Although he told BBC radio on Monday morning he had no evidence of wrongdoing but had been merely relaying bookmakers' information, the ECB were not mollified.
"Both the ECB and Team England view the comments made by Mr Butt as defamatory and not based in fact," a statement said. "The ECB expresses its gratitude for the outstanding conduct of the England team this summer and will take all legal and disciplinary action which may result from Mr Butt's comments."
Strauss, who top-scored with 68 from 72 balls in England's innings on Monday, told reporters the team would explore every avenue to combat Butt's allegations. "We don't want this to sully our reputation," he said.
Two former PCB chiefs said Butt's comments were ill-advised. "It's ridiculous what he has said. If he had any proof or information about English players he should have gone with it to the ICC or Scotland Yard which is already investigating allegations against our players," Khalid Mehmood said.
Shaharyar Khan said that Butt's statement would only isolate Pakistan further. "If we had any information about English players we should have spoken to the ECB about it instead of going public," he said.