Cricket: Pakistan players on trial for alleged 'spot-fixing'

4th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Two Pakistan Test players went on trial in London on Tuesday charged with spot-fixing during a match against England last year, allegations which rocked the world of cricket.

Former captain Salman Butt, 26, and star bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, appeared at Southwark Crown Court charged with conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and with conspiracy to cheat.

The charges relate to allegations of deliberately bowling no-balls during England's fourth Test against Pakistan at Lord's cricket ground in London in August 2010.

The allegations were made in the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid, which was closed down in July this year when it became engulfed in the phone hacking scandal.

The pair deny the charges. The offences carry maximum sentences of seven years and two years in prison respectively.

Potential jurors in the trial were asked on Tuesday whether they or their families worked in the gambling industry or earned money from professional cricket or have ever been employed in journalism.

Judge Jeremy Cooke then swore in a jury of seven men and five women for the case, which he said could last up to five weeks, before adjourning the case until Wednesday.

Butt stood in the dock wearing a grey pinstripe suit and white open-necked shirt while the taller Asif wore a black suit with a white shirt. Asif listened to the proceedings through an Urdu interpreter.

Two other people -- talented 19-year-old bowler Mohammad Aamer and the three players' agent Mazhar Majeed -- have also been charged with the same offences.

At the time of the alleged offences, Butt was captain of Pakistan's Test side and had won plaudits for his leadership of the team.

Asif was the team's senior pace bowler, while teenage left-arm swing bowler Aamer was regarded as one of the hottest properties in world cricket.

The allegations stem from a probe by Mazher Mahmood, former undercover reporter for the News of the World, known in Britain as the "fake sheikh" for wearing Arab dress during investigations.

Prior knowledge of when no-balls will occur could be exploited in what is known as 'spot-betting', hugely popular in South Asia, whereby gamblers bet on various possible incidents in a match rather than the final outcome.

Cricket is potentially extremely vulnerable to 'spot-fixing'. Betting can be planned around specific incidents without the need to manipulate the final result of the match.

The most infamous recent case of proven fixing in cricket came a decade ago when former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was revealed to have accepted money from bookmakers in a bid to influence the course of games as well as trying to corrupt his team-mates.

Cronje died in a mysterious plane crash in 2002.

© 2011 AFP

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