Monday, August 30, 2010
Lord's Test at centre of fixing allegations
The fourth Test between England and Pakistan at Lord's is at the centre of a police investigation into spot-fixing following the arrest of a 35-year-old man, Mazher Majeed, who was allegedly caught claiming to have bribed Pakistan's bowlers to bowl no-balls on demand.
According to a report in The News of the World, Majeed accepted £150,000 to arrange a fix involving Pakistan's new-ball bowlers, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, whom he allegedly asked to bowl no-balls at specific moments of the match. The paper also alleges that the team captain, Salman Butt, and the wicketkeeper, Kamran Akmal, are involved, along with three other unnamed cricketers.
Cricinfo understands that the players named were questioned about sums of money found in the rooms, though it is thought that those were made up of the daily allowances players are given while on tour. The man arrested, Majeed, is believed to have contacts with the team though until now it was assumed he was acting as an agent for players, helping them secure sponsorship and kit contracts.
Officials from the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit are currently flying in from Dubai, and in a statement, the ICC confirmed that the allegations were being taken seriously.
"The International Cricket Council, the England & Wales Cricket Board and the Pakistan Cricket Board have been informed by the Metropolitan Police that a 35-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers," read the statement.
"The Metropolitan Police have informed the ICC, ECB and PCB that their investigations continue and ICC, ECB and PCB, with the involvement of the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, are fully assisting those enquiries. No players nor team officials have been arrested in relation to this incident and the fourth npower Test match will continue as scheduled on Sunday. As this is now subject to a police investigation neither ICC, ECB, PCB, nor the ground authority, the MCC, will make any further comment."
A Scotland Yard spokeman added: "Following information received from the News of the World we have today [Saturday, August 28] arrested a 35-year old man on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers."
In a video secretly recorded during the NOTW investigation, a man alleged to be Mazher is clearly heard predicting that Amir would bowl the first over of the England innings, and that he would deliver a no-ball from the first ball of the third over - which as Cricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary noted: "was an enormous no-ball, good half a metre over the line." The man also appeared to correctly predict a no-ball from the sixth ball of the tenth over, bowled this time by Asif.
Pakistan's team manager Yawar Saeed confirmed that the allegations were being investigated, with police turning up at the team hotel in Swiss Cottage at 7.30pm, shortly after the close of an eventful third day of the Lord's Test, in which Pakistan were left on the brink of defeat after losing 14 wickets in the day.
According to Sky News reporters outside the team hotel, police officers were seen leaving the building with two bags at around 11pm, while an unidentified man in a Pakistan training top was understood to have been taken away in an unmarked police car from the back of the building, although the team manager denied that any arrests had been made within the squad.
Even allowing for their disastrous on-field performance, Pakistan left Lord's with unusual haste after the third day's play, with the team bus departing barely 20 minutes after the close of play, before any member of the squad had taken part in the mandatory post-match press conference.
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