TROTT AND RIAZ CLASH AS WAR OF WORDS HOTS UP; Rivals Trade Insults during Warm-Up at Lord's after ECB Threaten Pakistan Chief Butt with Legal Action over Allegations
Byline: Tom Collomosse Sports Correspondent
JONATHAN TROTT and Wahab Riaz were involved in an angry exchange at Lord's today as tension between England and Pakistan mounted on and off the field.
The first flashpoint came with the England and Wales Cricket Board and England team threatening legal action against Pakistan Board chairman Ijaz Butt over his allegation that Andrew Strauss's side had been paid to lose the third one-day international.
Then there was more controversy as Trott and Riaz traded insults on the practice area at the Nursery End -- known as the Nursery Ground -- as the teams limbered up prior to the start of the fourth one-day international.
It is not known what caused the argument and although it was dismissed as "handbags", the altercation was brought to the attention of match referee Jeff Crowe.
The incident threatened to delay the toss as Pakistan coach Waqar Younis and captain Shahid Afridi were summoned to their team's balcony to discuss the situation.
In the end, the coin was spun on time, but the Trott/Riaz clash was the latest unsavoury event in a depressing 24 hours for cricket, and it was no surprise to see many empty seats at Lord's during the opening exchanges of the match, with 5000 tickets still unsold before today.
Earlier, the ECB and the England team released statements slamming Butt over his allegations relating to last Friday's match at The Brit Insurance Oval.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing from the England team. Although Butt tried to backtrack today, claiming the accusations were not his own but those of bookmakers, his qualification has done nothing to mollify the ECB or the players.
In a prepared statement, England captain Strauss said: "We would like to express our surprise, dismay and outrage at the comments made by Mr Butt yesterday.
"We are deeply concerned and disappointed that our integrity as cricketers has been brought into question. We refute these allegations completely and will be working closely with the ECB to explore all legal options open to us."
Although the ECB decided to proceed with today's match and the final NatWest Series fixture, at The Rose Bowl on Wednesday, they are furious with Butt for casting doubt on their integrity.
It was the ECB who offered a haven to Pakistan this summer, inviting them to play a Test and Twenty20 series against Australia because they are unable to play international cricket in their home country.
The ECB had considered making the same gesture for next summer but that is now highly unlikely. Indeed, it will probably be some time before England and Pakistan meet again in a bilateral series.
Players union chief Angus Porter condemned what he sees as "mischievous attempts to detract attention from the real issues". The ECB's statement added: "Given the current sensitivities surrounding this issue, ECB believes it is imperative that any serious allegations made against another team or player should be presented through the proper channels to the ACSU (ICC anti-corruption unit). Both ECB and Team England view the comments made by Mr Butt as defamatory.
"The ECB will take all legal and disciplinary action which may result from Mr Butt's comments.
"The Board and the team, however, are of a view that it remains in the best interests of world cricket , the players and in particular of cricket supporters that the tour should continue and it would set a dangerous precedent to call off a tour based on the misguided and inaccurate remarks made by one individual."
Strauss and Afridi shook hands at the toss but the Pakistan skipper's manner was curt when interviewed, and he declined to confront Butt's allegations directly. Afridi said: "I don't know what he said. We don't care what people are saying. We have to focus on cricket. That's it."
Strauss admitted it had been "a difficult 24 hours" but that the team "believe the best option available to us is to turn up and play for the public. …