Arrest over Pakistan-England Test cricket 'betting scam'

Mohammad Asif (left) and Mohammad Amir
Image caption The two players at the centre of the allegations have given police statements

A man has been arrested in connection with an alleged cricket betting scam centred on the current Test match between Pakistan and England at Lord's.

The News of the World claims it gave £150,000 to a middleman for details about three no-balls which players later bowled at the times predicted.

Scotland Yard said a 35-year-old man was being held on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers.

England bowled out Pakistan on Sunday morning to win the match and series.

The News of the World alleges that Pakistani players were secretly paid to deliberately bowl no-balls during the match.

The allegations relate to three no-balls delivered by Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif on Thursday and Friday.

A no-ball occurs when a bowler oversteps the line behind which balls should be delivered.

The News of the World said members of its reporting team posed as businessmen and paid a middleman who told them exactly what would happen in the three separate incidents during play.

Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed confirmed police officers had taken statements from four players.

He said: "Scotland Yard detectives visited the team hotel where they took statements from [captain] Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and [wicketkeeper] Kamran Akmal."

Mr Saeed added that as far as he knew the planned one-day international series against England would go ahead as planned.

Pakistan sports minister Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani told the Reuters news agency that any Pakistan player found guilty of match-fixing would be banned from playing for the national side for life.

Bill Akass, managing editor of the News of the World, said: "The idea that any activity during a game is prearranged for money undermines the integrity of an entire sport.

"I'm frankly astonished that this game is going ahead today."

BBC cricket commentator Phil Tufnell said everything about the current Test had been "brought into question".

'Uncomfortable questions'

A joint statement issued by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said that no player nor team officials had "been arrested in relation to this incident".

It added: "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 said the ICC, ECB, PCB, along with the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, were assisting the police with their inquiries.

The BBC's Andy Swiss said the allegations involved "very minor, very small details within the match that might seem ridiculously trivial to a lot of people".

Our correspondent added: "That sort of information is worth a huge amount of money in the betting world where you can put bets on the tiniest details within a cricket game.

"This is a difficult situation for cricket and there are going to be some uncomfortable questions for the Pakistan team."

Betting on when no-balls happen in cricket, or how many are made, is a form of gambling called spot-betting.

This refers to betting on certain events taking place in a game, rather than the actual result.

Previous controversies

After taking 14 Pakistan wickets on Saturday, England took the final six wickets on Sunday morning to win the match by an innings and 225 runs.

This gave them a 3-1 victory in the four-match series of Tests, which are international matches played over up to five days.

England captain Andrew Strauss said the spot-fixing allegations against members of the Pakistan team had taken the gloss off England's series win.

"I don't think anyone wants to finish a Test series in this scenario," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"It has taken the gloss off the series win which is very disappointing because we had some outstanding performances."

It is the second successive England-Pakistan Test series that has ended in controversy.

Four years ago, umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove ruled Pakistan had forfeited the fourth Test by failing to return to the field in time following the tea interval. The Pakistan team had been incensed about an earlier decision to penalise them five runs for alleged ball-tampering.

In July 2008, the ICC changed the result of the match from an England win by forfeit to a draw, but in February last year cricket's governing body made a U-turn and awarded a victory to England.

It is also the second time this year that the Pakistan team has found itself under investigation.

An inquiry was launched after they lost every international fixture on last winter's tour to Australia, resulting in four players being suspended by the PCB and three players fined.

Three of the bans were subsequently lifted, including indefinite bans on former captains Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, and the fourth is currently subject to an appeal.

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