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No resolution but plenty of intrigue at ICC tribunal

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David Bond | 18:44 UK time, Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The ICC spot fixing tribunal investigating corruption claims against the three Pakistan players might have left us all waiting a little longer to discover the outcome of this crucial case but there were still two interesting developments on Tuesday.

The first was the admission from Michael Beloff QC, the chairman of the independent three man panel, that in addition to the alleged deliberate no balls at Lord's last August, they were also asked by the ICC's prosecution team to investigate claims relating to the preceeding Test at the Oval.

I first reported the fact on Monday night that the tribunal was looking at the Oval as well as Lord's but on Tuesday all but one of the charges relating to that game was dropped.

The exact nature of the Oval charges remains unknown, but in the full transcripts from the News of the World investigation the players' agent Mazhar Majeed is recorded making similar predictions to the ones he made in relation to Lord's.

But, unlike the Lord's Test, these ones didn't come off.

The alleged fixer is caught on tape telling an undercover reporter that two no balls will be bowled at the Oval on the Friday [20 August] but does not specify who will bowl them.

When the no balls fail to happen Majeed explains the bowlers had been warned about bowling extras by a member of the Pakistan coaching team, making it difficult to go through with the fix.

Majeed is then quoted claiming Test captain Salman Butt will play out a maiden during Saturday's play [21 August]. Again this fails to materialise.

At face value it would seem there is nothing for any of the players to answer here. And the ICC's decision to drop all the charges relating to the Oval against Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir suggest the Oval claims are now irrelevant.

However, one outstanding charge remains against Butt - presumably because he is the only player named by Majeed in connection with the unfulfilled Oval predictions.

Salman Butt [right]

Salman Butt [right] will have to wait to discover his fate [AFP]

And that could be a sign that the ICC believes the alleged conspiracy involving Majeed and the Test captain goes beyond an isolated incident at Lord's.

But did the ICC make a mistake by including the Oval charges only to drop them on the last day of the six-day hearing? Did they waste time and ultimately rob themselves of the chance of getting a verdic there?

The second interesting development on Tuesday was the tribunal's decision to drop one of the lesser charges against Asif.

The charge relates to 2.4.1 of the ICC anti corruption code which "prohibits providing or receiving any gift, payment or other circumstances that might reasonably have expected could bring him or the sport of cricket into disrepute".

This is thought to relate to the fact that the ICC was unable to prove that Asif received payment from Majeed in connection with the alleged conspiracy.

While it is understood police found money linked to the News of the World sting in Amir's and Butt's London hotel rooms, none of the cash was found to be in Asif's possession.

The more substantive and serious charges against all three players relating to Lord's remain undecided, however, and it's hard to read a great deal into the fact that one lesser charge against Asif has been dropped.

As you might expect the players and the ICC all left the commercial and civil court here in Doha on Tuesday evening claiming they were happy with the way the hearing had gone.

Over the last six days, the panel considered eight volumes of written evidence and sat through 45 hours of hearings. Some people might feel that is more than sufficient time to deliver a verdict on these three players.

But having come this far the ICC tribunal does not want to do anything which might leave them open to accusations of failing to follow proper process.

With their futures on the line, the players asked them to provide a full and considered judgment and, as Beloff explained, this wasn't "feasible" in the time set aside here.

So while the ICC will be extremely disappointed not to have been handed the guilty verdicts, their lawyers will be more than happy to wait another few weeks.

They know how much is at stake here - not just for these players or for the reputation of the ICC - but for the sport as a whole.



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