WHEN Mohammad Amir took his fifth wicket at Lord's on Friday, he dropped to his knees and kissed the most hallowed turf in cricket.
The most hallowed turf in sport, perhaps.
It was a kiss of BETRAYAL.
A betrayal of the sport's soul by a young man corrupted by greed.
A betrayal of a troubled nation beset by problems, grappling with the harrowing effects of a natural tragedy.
Think that is an exaggeration? Think again.
In a time of human devastation, cricket was an escape for the people of
While their performances were strangely inconsistent - maybe we now know why - there were moments when the spirit of this team was admired back home and in England, their ups and downs in this series a reflection of the turbulent times four thousand miles away.
It turns out that spirit can be bought, those ups and downs conducted by high-rolling gamblers.
And to think we gave this team house room when security fears robbed their nation of hosting the sport they love with an unrivalled passion.
While the world unites to gather millions of pounds in support of the relief effort, while those whose lives were washed away by floods scramble to save the last material vestiges of their existence, their cricketers - icons of society, shafts of light in dark times - try to make a fast buck out of a noble game.
In the process, they have brought shame on a sport once the epitome of honour.
The actions of these few have stained cricket for ever.
How long before we can again watch a Pakistani cricket team and believe? Believe the myriad dropped catches are down to human error rather than human avarice? Believe that astonishing comebacks such as the one pulled off by Australia in Sydney earlier this year are part of cricket's tapestry of miracles rather than stone-cold scams?
Think also of the collateral damage. Every wicket taken against
by striving Englishmen, every run scored, every victory achieved, is meaningless. When Stuart Broad clipped a shot through midwicket on Friday afternoon, it was the moment of his young life. Pakistan
A century - his first in Test cricket, his first in professional cricket - at the home of the game.
Scoring at Wembley, holing a winning putt at St Andrews, serving out for the title at
Wimbledon. It was up there with them.
Now, it means nothing.
But this is not just about crushing our belief in the integrity of cricket. They have not just betrayed the game's soul, they have betrayed sport. Full stop.
They have poisoned the very essence of it.
It is another - and, by far the most damning - piece of evidence that cheating is now endemic in top-level sport.
This newspaper listened to John Higgins boast how he could rig a snooker match for a few grand. Match-fixing allegations swirl around the lesser leagues of European football.
Crashgate and Bloodgate might not have been at the behest of illegal gambling syndicates or bent bookies but they drip- drip into the public consciousness.
When players cheat in any sport, they besmirch their fellow sportsmen around the world.
If we watch a crucial putt missed, we might just wonder. An own goal in the dying seconds of a game or a dart landing the wrong side of victory? Hhhmm.
Genuine slings and arrows of sporting misfortune... or despicable acts perpetrated by people having their strings pulled by gambling puppeteers?
Betting in sport is a juggernaut that cannot be halted. It will always bring with it crime and corruption.
The thing that sporting authorities can do is ban offenders for life. The News of the World has pursued them, sporting authorities should do likewise.
And when caught, no pussy- footing around, no two-year suspension slaps on wrists.
The multitudes around the world who love sport have got to be able to believe in its integrity.
Fixing games destroys the fundamental principle of sport.
Those guilty of it should be banned for life.