The fate of the three Pakistani players facing spot-fixing charges has been delayed until February 5, Michael Beloff QC, chair of the International Cricket Council's three-man tribunal confirmed in a statement yesterday.
Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer spent the last six days at an anti-corruption tribunal answering charges relating to allegations of accepting payment for bowling no-balls at pre-arranged times in the fourth Test against England in August at Lord's.
The tribunal came to a conclusion yesterday as both sides gave their closing arguments but Beloff confirmed that the verdict and sanctions will be deferred until February 5.
"The tribunal has throughout been very conscious of the importance of these proceedings to the three players and to the wider world of cricket," Beloff said in the statement. "Representations have been made to it to reserve any decision on the charges still before it until it has had sufficient time to give the issues the most careful consideration and until it is able to, at the same time as handing down its decision, to provide written reasons. This would not be feasible in the timetable agreed for this hearing in Doha.
"The tribunal has therefore determined to continue its deliberations and will hold a further hearing in Doha on February 5 this year, at which its decisions will be handed down to the parties and any consequential matters will be dealt with."
Cricket was rocked when the News of the World published a story alleging businessman Mazhar Majeed accepted 150,000 to arrange no-balls during the fourth Test between Pakistan and England at Lord's last August.
The three players, who remain suspended from all cricket until the February 5 hearing, face potential bans from the sport ranging from six months to life if found guilty.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have invited major brands to come forward and sponsor men's and women's Test match cricket. The move follows npower's decision to stand down as the sponsor of the home Test series, ending an association that has stood since 2001.
This summer's fixtures with India and Sri Lanka will be the last under the npower banner.
The ECB's commercial director John Perera said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for a major brand to be at the very heart of English cricket.
"Test match cricket attracts huge interest across the country and occupies a special place in our nation's culture. It has come to symbolise the very essence of an 'English' summer."