Revelations that umpire Darrell Hair asked cricket's governing body the ICC for a US$500,000 pay-off to defuse the ball-tampering row with Pakistan dominated Britain's newspapers yesterday.
The latest twist in a saga that began at The Oval last Sunday made the front pages of early editions of not only the Daily Telegraph and the Times but also the Sun tabloid and the even business daily the Financial Times.
Copies of the very e-mails in which the Australian official, 53, made the request to the ICC's umpires and referees manager, Doug Cowie, were reprinted while ex-pros and pundits gave their views.
The Sun -- whose sports coverage is normally dominated by soccer -- was the most vocal critic, describing the affair as: "Ransom: Biggest Scandal to Hit Cricket."
The newspaper mocked up a photograph of Hair with a wad of greenbacks in his right hand under the headline "Ransom Demand," the "s" of "ransom" fashioned out of a dollar sign.
Like most, it viewed Hair as having irreparably damaged his reputation and made it virtually inevitable that Pakistan, and their captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, would be exonerated of ball tampering and disrepute charges.
Commentator Steven Howard wrote: "They coined a new phrase last night: as mad as Darrell Hair."
"Only someone who had taken temporary leave of his senses could have imagined he could have got away with holding his employers -- the ICC -- to ransom," he wrote.
He went on: "[The] facts are that Hair has single-handedly caused more damage to cricket than anyone else in the history of the game."
The Daily Mirror viewed Hair's correspondence as "one of professional sport's longest suicide notes."
"He is due to stand in a Second XI fixture at Chesterfield next week, but after yesterday's incredible disclosures, he will be lucky to get a white coat as a dentist's receptionist," wrote correspondent Mike Walters.
Instead of "the way forward" -- what Hair titled his e-mails -- "in professional terms, it proved only a fast-track over the cliff-edge," he added.
In the broadsheets, the Times' Christopher Martin-Jenkins was in a conciliatory mood, assessing that Hair's decision was "almost certainly made with honest intentions", but acknowledging its detrimental impact.
The Guardian agreed that Hair's actions appeared to have prejudiced the case against Pakistan but considered it had united cricket "as rarely before."
After apologizing to Pakistan and opening an investigation into Hair's conduct, the ICC should look at how much power umpires have over a match, the newspaper added.
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