LONDON, August 30 – Pakistan's cricket team were embroiled in an alleged betting scam Sunday after British police arrested a man on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers during a Test match against England.
The News of the World newspaper said it paid 150,000 pounds (230,000 dollars, 185,000 euros) to a middle man in return for details about the timing of three no-balls in the match, which ended Sunday in victory for England.
The report said two Pakistan bowlers, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, delivered the blatant no-balls at the exact points in the match agreed with the alleged fixer.
The Pakistan team manager said the bowlers and captain Salman Butt had been interviewed by Scotland Yard detectives about the allegations and police took away their mobile phones.
The newspaper published a photograph of the alleged middle man, Mazhar Majeed, counting wads of banknotes given to him by a reporter posing as a front man for a betting syndicate.
A spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police told AFP: "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 match, the fourth and final Test between the two countries, resumed as normal at Lord’s on Sunday with Pakistan collapsing to defeat with the rapid loss of six wickets to give England victory in the four-match series.
Unusually, the post-match presentation ceremony did not take place on the outfield but was moved inside to the Long Room of the Lord’s pavilion.
During the ceremony, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke refused to shake Aamer’s hand when presenting him with the Pakistan Man of the Series award.
The International Cricket Council stressed that no players or team officials had been arrested over the fixing claims.
Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed confirmed that Scotland Yard detectives had visited the team’s hotel on Saturday and taken away the mobile phones of Aamer, Asif and skipper Butt. All three also gave statements to police.
Despite the allegations, Saeed denied that Pakistan cricket was "institutionally corrupt".
"I would not like to say that," he told Sky Sports. "Yes, one has heard and one has read (allegations), but I would not like to go that far."
A defiant Butt insisted he would not resign the Test team captaincy over the claims.
"Anybody can stand out and say anything about you, that doesn’t make them true," he said.
The latest allegations will heap further suspicion on cricket in Pakistan, which is already at a low ebb.
Pakistan have been unable to play matches at home since a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March last year effectively turned the country into a ‘no-go area’ for international cricket.
The team has been dogged by ‘fixing’ allegations since the 1990s and also embroiled in ball-tampering.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his disappointment at the claims and is being informed of developments.
The country’s federal sports minister Ijaz Jakhrani promised that any players found guilty would be severely punished.
If wrongdoing was proven, "all the players involved must forget to play for Pakistan in future," he said.
The News of the World claimed their reporters had posed as front men for an Asian gambling cartel, paying 10,000 pounds to the alleged fixer as an upfront deposit.
They met again on Wednesday in a London hotel room to hand over the rest of the money as their "entry ticket" into what the newspaper claimed was a "huge betting syndicate".
The no-balls at the centre of the claims were bowled on Thursday and Friday.
In barely two hours of play Sunday, Pakistan rapidly lost wickets to hand England a crushing victory by an innings and 225 runs with more than a day to spare to wrap up a 3-1 win in the series.
Pakistan’s players now face an awkward time as they must remain in England for a series of one-day matches.
Pakistan’s 2006 Test series in England was also rocked by controversy.
They forfeited the final match at The Oval in south London, having refused to take the field after tea on the fourth day because they had been penalised for ball-tampering.