"This is Pakistan being cornered.”

Thats the opinion of Salman Butt about ICC after his and Mohammad Amir’s bans were upheld at a hearing in Dubai last weekend.

This wasn’t their actual hearing into match-fixing, it was an attempt by the players to get their suspensions lifted while the investigations into the alledged match-fixing continues.

They have every right to do this, but surely they would have been doing the game of cricket a favour by just letting the investigation take place without any added interference or unwelcome attention.

Butt is also quoted as saying “They listened to us but it felt as if their decision had already been made from before. It was not based on a single piece of evidence. After a 12-hour hearing the only so-called evidence they had was the same News Of The World article and the same video everyone has seen.”

Amir also criticized ICC, saying, “To me it appeared as if this is a conspiracy to defame Pakistan cricket. I am hurt and sad because we want the truth to come out.” That sounds more like the sort of language we would normally get from Ijaz Butt.

Salman Butt’s comments give an indication to the probable make up of the main basis on which his defence will be built. He is basically saying ‘Where is the real evidence?’ It gives the impression that his lawyers have told him that the NOTW video isn’t the strongest or most reliable evidence to build a successful case on.

This is probably why the players are being so brash and confident in their public declarations of innocence. Like in the John Higgins’ match-fixing case in Snooker, it is very hard to prove guilt.

Also, is the NOTW evidence good enough for the Crown Prosecution to get a conviction in the UK? Or have the Police gathered more evidence?

If the answer to these questions in No, then the 3 players must think that they have a great chance of getting off with ICC as well. If the evidence isn’t good enough to find them guilty in a Court of Law, then how can ICC find them guilty?

The answer to that is that ICC’s criteria for a guilty verdict probably isn’t as stringent as a UK Court of Law’s is. Although a ‘Not Guilty’ in UK law, against a ‘Guilty’ verdict from ICC would surely lead to a legal appeal by the 3 players.

Although, again referring back to the John Higgens’ case, there is always the option to fudge the whole thing and hit them with a convenient lesser charge, should the evidence not be strong enough for the match-fixing charge to hold up.

This is where I can see problems ahead for ICC, they really need the British Police to unearth some new damning evidence.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect this sorry episode to be resolved anytime soon!

Test Cricket is Alive and Well

Friday was yet another enthralling day of test cricket. In the new crash, bang, wallop era it was the sort of day that proves that the test format is still the pinnacle of cricket.

In the morning the headlines belonged to Mohammad Amir for his remarkable one man show bowling performance, and to Kevin Pietersen for his now, more than troublesome batting frailties.

Then after lunch Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad took over with magnificent centuries. Trott showed the sort of discipline and attitude that England’s batsmen consistently lack, and as the partnership developed you could see these attributes rubbing off on Broad.

Any doubts over Trott’s place in the side when Bell returns are now dead and buried. He always seemed the odd man out to me, I always had the impression he had to do more than the likes of Bell, Morgan and Collingwood to keep his place. His place is now in no doubt, Jonathan Agnew described it as by far his best innings, even better than his debut century at the Oval last year to help England win the Ashes. Thats some accolade.

Stuart Broad seemed to be going down the well trodden route of prospective all-rounder, to just being a bowler who could throw the bat a bit. One century dosen’t make him a number 6, but it does show that there is still plenty to work with.

This wasn’t a fluke innings, it wasn’t one of those times when a tailender just throws the bat with no pressure and it comes off, it was a proper innings. When Broad came out to bat the whole series had just about been thrown away by England. Broad responded with remarkable fighting spirit. And lets remember he hasn’t just smacked some average bowling attack around, this isn’t Bangladesh, this Pakistani attack can stand alongside any in world cricket.

While England’s batting frailties were there to be seen again yesterday, the positives to take from this (and there are some positives this time, Michael Vaughan) are that England fought back from the brink of defeat in a manner we aren’t used to seeing from them. Both these centuries counted, the whole summers work was just about to be undone before Trott and Broad intervened, they were proper test match, high pressure innings.

In a match that has already swung one way and then the other, it will be interesting to see if Pakistan can fight back again. If not for their own pride, the Pakistan players owe it to Mohammad Amir to make a match of this. This young man deserves as much credit as Trott and Broad have received, any other day and he would have been the headline maker.

His efforts shouldn’t be overshadowed. He looked a decent prospect in Australia last winter, he has now shown during this English summer that he is already the real deal. Yesterdays showing was the culmination of an impressive summers all-round cricket from the youngster, and he has now already got his name on the Lord’s Honours Board, and probably not for the last time either.