From Our Wrong Correspondent: England bungle their daring daylight robbery

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When not writing about Thai prostitutes, heroin junkies and bent coppers, I've always fancied reporting on a game that takes five days and involves 22 men taking turns to wield a large piece of wood.

But within hours of entering the ground for the second day of the final Test with Australia, I began to have my suspicions that all was not what it seemed.

How could our international cricket team bat so badly in their first innings, stage an exciting fightback, and then collapse again?

Forensic and photographic evidence, expert statements from newspaper commentators, and eye-witnesses from cricket grounds around the country, suggest the answer is that England are hopeless. But I believe the answer is more complicated. Perhaps the match is rigged and England have deliberately thrown the Ashes series.

I immediately telephoned Scotland Yard where a spokesman would only say that he was "not aware" of any current investigation into allegation of bribe-taking - clear proof that a major inquiry .

Underworld contacts later confirmed that England's performances during the summer have been criminal.

Questions to the England management as to whether they expected their men to be charged with impersonating an international cricket team went unanswered.

The crowd would not have looked out of place at a church fete. A mixture of the frightfully nice, frightfully well-dressed and just plain frightful, they seemed happy to applaud England's latest attempt to avoid further humiliation.

While patrolling the perimeter of the ground I found evidence of further misdemeanours. Why, on a hot August day, at one of the most prestigious matches of the year, are spectators offered fish and chips and huge sausages from a selection of fast-food vans?

Such fare is not available in the numerous executive boxes perched at either end of the ground. Sadly, many of the corporate guests did not appear to be interested in what was happened on the pitch. More than an hour after play resumed following lunch, most of the corporate boxes - which occupy all the best views - were empty. The laughter of sozzled business folk carried in the air.

A trawl around the bars revealed dozens of men watching the cricket on the television. As one elderly gentleman explained: "You can see everything much more clearly on the TV and there is someone to tell you what's happening."

On the pitch, England were performing one of their familiar double bluffs - teasing the crowd with the possibility of a comeback, as Phil Tufnell spun the team back into contention.

But as the day came towards an end, it looked as if England were once again heading for jail.

Sport, page 26