Cricket matches `were rigged'

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The Independent Online
As Bruce Grobbelaar, the footballer accused of taking bribes to throw matches, received a hero's reception yesterday playing for Zimbabwe, the English cricketing establishment was facing up to match-fixing allegations that may prove just as damaging.

Two former Essex cricketers told the Sunday Mirror that there was an arrangement between Essex and Lancashire in 1991 where Lancashire were allowed to win a Sunday League game between the two sides, and, in return, Essex would benefit from a soft declaration when a three-day County Championship game resumed on the next morning.

Lancashire did win the Sunday League match, while Essex won the Championship game. The Essex game was Lancashire's last in that year's Sunday League, with Lancashire starting play in second place, two points behind Nottinghamshire. Nottinghamshire beat Derbyshire to become Sunday League champions. However, the 21 points Essex gained for their victory over Lancashire proved crucial to their winning the County Championship in 1991. They eventually finished 13 points ahead of Warwickshire.

``We were given the nod and the wink that if we happened to lose the Sunday game, then we would get an easy declaration on the Monday,'' Don Topley, the former Essex all-rounder, told the Sunday Mirror. ``I am ashamed of what I did.''

Grobbelaar, meanwhile, enjoyed a triumphant end to a tough week when he helped Zimbabwe to a 2-1 win over Zaire in an African Nations Cup qualifier in Harare. A crowd of more than 50,000 cheered almost every time he touched the ball. The match was full of controversy, but none of it involved Grobbelaar, who had no chance against Zaire's second-half equaliser. ``It was a great goal,'' Grobbelaar said.

He said he would fly back to England as soon as possible to clear his name and is expected in London tomorrow morning.

Pressure on TCCB, page 36

Grobbelaar the hero, page 35