Botham hits 'inadequate' Imran apology for six

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The Independent Online
Imran Khan offered two years ago to settle his dispute with Ian Botham and Allan Lamb, saying he had never called them racists and had been misquoted, the High Court heard yesterday. On the fourth day of the cricket libel trial, George Carman QC, counsel for Imran, cross-examined Botham and Lamb about why they had refused his client's offer of an open letter to the Times to clear their names of racist or class slurs and opted for a "blood battle" in court.

Mr Carman also wanted to know why the pair decided to sue Imran personally rather than take the publishers to court. On 12 July 1994 Imran's solicitor wrote to Lamb and Botham's solicitor, Alan Herd, and included a draft of Imran's letter. Botham and Lamb were not satisfied with it and instructed their solicitor to issue the writ against Imran.

Mr Carman said to Botham, in what was the plaintiff's final stretch of a 14-hour cross-examination: "You know Imran Khan has said for two years he has never called you or Alan Lamb a racist. Will you accept that?" "No, sir," replied Botham. Mr Carman continued: "Did you not think the letter was written in the spirit of good faith?" "I think it's a smokescreen," Botham replied. "I do not think it is an apology, which is all I asked for."

Lamb, 42, the South African- born former England batsman and ex-captain of Northamptonshire county cricket club, told the court how he had been "very saddened" by the India Today article which suggested he and Botham were racist and uneducated. Racism, he said, was one of the reasons he left his homeland in 1979 - though in England, some people, labelling him a South African, had told him: "Go back to South Africa, you racist bastard". To be branded a racist again was very upsetting he said.

To Lamb, Mr Carman said: "You know Imran Khan says he was misquoted in India Today." "So he says," replied Lamb.

Continued Mr Carman: "He was very, very happy to say you're not a racist." Replied Lamb: "We don't accept that. That's why we're here."

The hearing continues today.