LONDON, August 30 – Cricket authorities were under pressure Monday to cancel the rest of Pakistan's tour to England after lurid match-fixing allegations swirled around a string of recent matches.Scotland yard detectives were questioning top Pakistani players as the cricket world reacted with shock and dismay at reports that hundreds of thousands of dollars had changed hands in match-fixing schemes at test level dating back months.
Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan said any further matches against the tourists would have "no credibility" in the light of the damaging allegations.
The latest scandal broke when Britain’s News of the World claimed Sunday that it had paid fixer Mazhar Majeed 150,000 pounds (230,000 dollars, 185,000 euros) for advance details of three no-balls in the fourth and final Test between Pakistan and England as part of a betting sting.
England won the game at Lord’s in London — the prestigious ground known as the home of cricket — on Sunday, meaning they took the series 3-1.
Majeed, a 35-year-old who is an agent for several Pakistan players, was arrested by police on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers in the wake of the report but was released on bail late Sunday.
Scotland Yard have also questioned Pakistan captain Salman Butt, plus star strike bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif.
Butt, Asif and 18-year-old Amir — who was named Pakistan’s man of the series — all had their mobile phones seized.
The news has sent shockwaves around the world of cricket, which prides itself on its reputation for fair play, raising questions about the fairness of previous games and leading to calls for Pakistan’s looming one-day series against England to be scrapped.
Police in Britain were told a month ago about alleged match-fixing in the first Test between Pakistan and England, according to Monday’s Sun newspaper, sister publication to the News of the World.
Another game in the spotlight is January’s second Test between Pakistan and Australia in Sydney, in which Australia overcame a 206-run innings deficit to win.
Majeed told the News of the World he earned over 830,000 pounds for a betting syndicate for rigging the match.
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland said there had previously been "no doubt" about the cleanness of the match but that he would now wait for further evidence before making any other comment.
And Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he feared some great individual performances by his players in the Sydney Test would be "tainted" if allegations of cheating by Pakistan were proven.
"The thing that I’m most worried about if any of this is proven to be true is some of the individual performances that took place in that game," he told national radio.
Former International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed even said there was a "fairly compelling case" for suspending Pakistan from world cricket.
"It looks as though it is endemic that several of the team members are involved and have been for some time," Speed told national radio. "So perhaps they need a rest. It looks a fairly compelling case."
Former England batsman Allan Lamb called for the upcoming one-day series between Pakistan and England to be scrapped. "I believe that the one-day series shouldn’t go on," he told BBC television.
Ex England captain Vaughan wrote in the Daily Telegraph that England "would not want to play against" Pakistan in the games, which would have "no credibility".
The news has also hit hard in Pakistan, with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the claims "have bowed our heads in shame", as he launched an investigation.
President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his disappointment at the allegations and is being informed of developments, while federal sports minister Ijaz Jakhrani promised any players found guilty would not play for Pakistan again.
A defiant Butt has 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.