The cricket world is reeling as members of the Pakistani team are accused of involvement in a betting scam after a News of the World sting operation. Channel4 News reports.
Four Pakistan players gave statements to the police on Saturday night as 35-year-old agent, Mazhar Majeed, was arrested.
The allegations centre around the timing of no balls delivered during the Test match at Lord’s Cricket Ground, which finished on Sunday.
Pakistan’s captain Salman Butt, bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif and wicket keeper Kamran Akmal were all questioned by officers from Scotland Yard, team manager Yawar Saeed confirmed.
Undercover reporters from the News of the World allegedly paid a middleman £150,000 to hear exact details relating to the next day’s play.
The paper said it was able to buy its way into a match-fixing ring by posing as Far Eastern businessmen.
Despite the controversy, the match at Lord’s resumed on Sunday. Pakistan’s two batsmen, who are uninvolved in the scam, were greeted by muted applause as they walked to the crease.
England won the match and the series 3-1, but their success looks to be overshadowed by events off the field.
Channel 4 News reporter James Blake said the atmosphere at Lord’s was flat.
“The atmosphere was hardly celebratory, even from the England fans,” he said. “Everybody was coming out looking sombre.”
The information provided to the News of the World would have allowed them to place bets on when no balls would be bowled – a type of betting which is not allowed in the UK but is understood to be popular elsewhere.
Graham Sharpe, spokesman for bookmaker William Hill, told Channel 4 News: “You could not bet on things like this in the UK, so this particular issue will not affect us.
“But in common with the people who run cricket, there is a concern for the integrity of the sport. That is what encourages people to bet on sport – knowing it is not premeditated.”
Arrest made Scotland Yard said it arrested a man in relation to the newspaper’s investigation.
A force spokesman said: “Following information received from the News of the World we have arrested a 35-year-old man on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers.”
The News of the World team said it was told exactly when three no balls would be bowled during the current Test, something which gamblers could take advantage of in betting.
Bets of this type can not be placed in the UK, and are instead thought to be popular in more underground betting circles, particularly in areas like Pakistan and India.
The Pakistani team have faced match fixing and cheating allegations before, but the brother and business partner of the man arrested in connection to the scam said the allegations were “rubbish”.
Azhar Majeed said the claims about his brother Mazhar were “laughable”, adding: “I thought it was just rubbish.”
In the News of the World video footage, Mazhar Majeed is seen apparently with a pile of money in front of him.
Former and current players have expressed their anger and sadness that the game of cricket has been brought into disrepute.
In a post-match press conference, captain Andrew Strauss said: “I was astonished then saddened. So many good things have happened in this Test match, from our point of view, but it’s being overshadowed by this.
“For those of us that love the game of cricket, it is not a good thing.”
He said that the cricket world had a number of anti-cheating strategies, including banning laptops in the dressing rooms, installing anti-corruption officers at matches and encouraging players to report their suspicions.
People bet knowing it is not premeditated
"You could not bet like this in the UK. People like us are aware of some markets which may attract people who may wish to get around the rules to break the bookmakers and distort the game," William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe told Channel 4 News
"In the same way that you can't bet on when a ball will go out of play after kick off in football, you can't bet on individual balls in cricket, except in extraordinary circumstances.
"We also work with sporting bodies. If there was something to report to the sporting authorities, we would do so. And if we close a market - stop people putting bets on something - if we think there is something untoward, we are obliged to tell the Gambling Commission.
"So this particular issue will not affect us, but in common with the people who run cricket, there is a concern for the integrity of the sport.
"That's what encourages people to bet on sport - knowing it's not premeditated."
Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan wrote on Twitter: “Anger is my thoughts at the moment. I don’t see how they can get out of this one…it’s just a great shame why this has to happen. Very sad.”
Former England fast bowler Angus Fraser told Sky News: “Everyone with a deep love or interest for the game will be absolutely appalled by these allegations.
“Cricket has got to get a grip, a sport cannot afford to be surrounded by such a controversy.”
The International Cricket Council (ICC), the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), issued a joint statement.
It read: “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.”
The statement added that all three bodies were assisting police with their inquiries.
Four years ago, the Pakistani team were accused of ball tampering during a tour to England.
Australian umpire Darrell Hair ruled they had forfeited the test by refusing to take the field in a protest over his ball-tampering ruling.
In May this year, the ICC’s anti-corruption unit looked at the team’s poor performance after it was heavily beaten in Australia, and last year, Pakistan’s parliament quizzed senior figures from the team to discuss allegations they deliberately lost a Champions Trophy match to prevent India from reaching the semi-finals.