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Ball-change controversy delays start of play in St Lucia

Controversy over a ball change delayed the start of the third day's play in St Lucia by two hours, as Sri Lanka's players refused to take the field, protesting a charge of altering the ball's condition.

Play eventually began at 11.30am local time, with the umpires changing the ball and awarding West Indies five penalty runs, but Sri Lanka are not entirely mollified, and are understood to be contesting the charge. "SLC is reviewing the situation," a board statement said. "The sports minister, SLC CEO and the government-appointed Competent Authority (which is currently administering the SLC's day-to-day affairs pending fresh elections) are in situ at the SLC offices."

At close of play on day two, West Indies were 118 for 2 in reply to the opposition's first-innings score of 253. Day three was due to start at 9.30am local time, half-an-hour early to make up for time lost to rain delays on day two.

But even as the umpires made their way out to the middle, none of the Sri Lanka players joined them. Broadcaster visuals of their dressing room showed coach Chandika Hathurusingha, captain Dinesh Chandimal and team manager Asanka Gurusinha in discussion with match referee Javagal Srinath.

When the players eventually came onto the field at 10.50am, West Indies were officially given five extra runs and umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar oversaw the changing of the ball. The two batsmen at the crease - Devon Smith and Shai Hope - were given the right to choose the replacement, which is the protocol under ICC Law 41.3 ("The match ball - changing its condition").

Before the first ball could be bowled, though, the Sri Lanka players left the middle of the ground and made its way to its periphery, which became the site of further discussions among players, team management, and match officials.

According to an official present at the ground the umpires "suspected" a case of ball tampering: "The umpires are suspecting that there has been a ball-tampering situation. They wanted to change the ball, but without actually pointing a finger to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan team management is protesting against that."

The official added that one of the main reasons Sri Lanka did not take the field was because "the umpires informed them about the ball change just 10 minutes before the start today without evidence of any footage."

It is understood that the umpires were concerned about the condition of the ball at the end of the second day's play. "We did see the umpires looking at the ball a few times yesterday, but there was no statement made at the end of the day," the official said. "It all happened this morning."

A previous instance of a team refusing to take the field after a ball-change came at The Oval in 2006, when Pakistan did not take the field after tea on day four, after umpire Darrell Hair changed the ball and awarded five penalty runs to England. Pakistan eventually forfeited the Test.

Information Source www.espncricinfo.com
Image Source www.cricbuzz.com
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