David Kelso, Cricket Media Scotland
Ayr captain Craig Hunter last night denied cheating to prevent SNCL Premier champions Grange winning a bitter and highly controversial encounter at Cambusdoon.
It emerged that the home skipper has been reported to the Scottish Cricket Union for alleged unsporting conduct in the wake of Saturday's dramatic events.
The match was abandoned by the umpires - just one delivery before Grange would have been declared clear-cut victors. And the furious visitors accused Hunter and one of his players of breaching the spirit of the sport by deliberately refusing to complete the contest.
It is understood that Hunter will now answer a charge of contravening the league's conduct code 2.10 which states: "The captain of any team found guilty of attempting to manipulate a match in regard to the result shall be held responsible."
The offence carries a maximum penalty of a four-match suspension. It is believed that umpire Billy McPate has backed down from his initial intention to cite all 11 Ayr players.
The flashpoint came when former Scotland international Bruce Patterson was bowling the 20th over of Grange's reply to Ayr's tally of 234 for seven.
Under league regulations, 20 overs of the second innings must be completed for a match to be valid. Paterson's sixth delivery flew wildly down the leg-side. A wide and no-ball were signalled and when the bowler then claimed he could not properly grip or control the wet ball, the umpires ruled that conditions were unsuitable for further play.
Had he legitimately delivered the final ball, Grange would have been declared winners by eight wickets under the Duckworth/Lewis method. Instead, each side took three points.
A defiant Patterson shrugged off claims by angry Grange president Bobby Frazer that he had deliberately failed to end the over simply to stave off an away win.
Hunter was equally unapologetic for the way the game was concluded. "I didn't make the rules and I didn't break the rules," said the Ayr captain. "But there was no way we were going to lie back for the sake of it and let Grange pick up a full haul of points.
"The Grange people can think what they like, but I am 99.99 per cent happy with the way we conducted ourselves as a team - and the way I conducted myself as a player and captain.
"If I am in any sort of bother with the authorities, then so be it. My job is to protect the interests of my club - and that is what I was doing.
"I may have used the rules to our advantage, but Grange should think back three years to when they did the same sort of thing to us, and we ended up being relegated as a result."
Grange claimed that Patterson had taken almost 10 minutes to bowl the crucial over - three times the usual duration.
"There were two reasons for that," said Patterson. "Firstly, I was trying to keep the ball as dry as possible.
"Secondly, it was a tactical thing. The batsman was Sanjay Patel, who we reckoned was weaker when facing short-pitched deliveries.
"So I opted to change my style from off-spin to medium pace with a longer run-up. Unfortunately, the ball was like a bar of soap and the sixth delivery skewed out of my hand and went wide.
"It was abundantly clear that conditions were not good enough to allow play to continue and the umpires thought so as well.
"I don't really care what Grange might think. I won't be losing any sleep over what happened."
None of which could pacify Frazer. "The behaviour and attitude of Ayr was farcical - quite unlike anything I have ever encountered in cricket," he said.
"I am not going to use the term cheating, but what happened was completely against the spirit of the game and it deprived us of the winning points. Ayr were obviously ignorant of the regulations because they would have picked up three points anyway if we had won the game.
"The big worry is that Ayr's actions could be seen as a precedent by which other teams in the future could deliberately send down wides or no-balls in an effort to deprive the opposition of success. It is all very sad."
Simon Smith, the Grange and Scotland wicketkeeper, added: "It was shameful behaviour. The umpires did all they could, but you can't make players bowl legit deliveries if they don't want to. Taking 10 minutes to bowl five balls and then chucking down a wide shouldn't be allowed to go unpunished."
Events at Cambusdoon overshadowed the only top-flight match to reach a conclusion due to the weather. That was at Glenpark, where Rohit Ralhan struck a superb century to propel Clydesdale to victory over Greenock and draw level with them at the head of the table.