Cricketers 'filmed gouging the ball': Jury shown videotapes of 'irregular' acts by Pakistani players

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VIDEOTAPES of two cricket matches last summer showed more than 50 examples of Pakistan bowlers seeming to scratch and gouge the ball illegally, Chris Cowdrey, a former England captain, told the High Court yesterday.

The jury, which heard evidence from five professional cricketers during the day, was shown many of the incidents on television screens, accompanied by descriptions of how players had dug in thumb- or fingernails to make dents in the ball so it would swing unpredictably in the air.

Players are allowed to polish or wet one side to make it shiny, but are not allowed to damage the other side in any way. The shiny side passes faster through the atmosphere, making the ball swing.

Mr Cowdrey, now a sports consultant, was called by Allan Lamb, 39, another former England cricketer, as part of his defence to a libel action brought by Sarfraz Nawaz, 44, a former Pakistan strike bowler, over an article in the Daily Mirror in August 1992.

Mr Nawaz claims Mr Lamb was lying when he alleged that the Pakistani cricketer had shown him 12 years ago, when they were Northamptonshire team mates, how to make an old ball swing by gouging it with his nails and smearing the surface with sweat and grease so the umpire would not see the damage. He maintains that Mr Lamb's article described him as a cheat who had passed on the 'trick' to the 1992 Pakistani touring side.

The jury was told yesterday that Mr Cowdrey had been asked to watch 24 hours of recordings of BBC broadcasts of last summer's Test matches between England and Pakistan, to look for signs of doctoring the ball. He said he had found 54 incidents 'which could have been something irregular', and told the court that what he had found was 'more irregular' than anything he had seen before. He highlighted several during the second, fourth and fifth Tests which he said showed Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Aqib Javed using their thumbnails or fingernails to scratch the ball. These were actions for which there was 'no cricketing reason', he said.

One example showing Mr Javed scratching the ball drew the comment: 'Whoa steady on]', from the commentator, Richie Benaud.

Mr Cowdrey told the jury: 'Aqib has got his thumb and he has just gouged the ball. It's very blatant.' Mr Lamb's counsel, David Eady QC, asked: 'Have you ever seen anything like that before in your career?' Mr Cowdrey said: 'No.'

Cross-examined, Mr Cowdrey conceded that he had found nothing irregular in the one-day international between the two countries at Lord's in August which had prompted Mr Lamb's article.

Wayne Larkins, former opening bat with Northamptonshire and the holder of 38 England caps, told the court that Mr Nawaz had told him about scratching the ball when they had a drink together after a county match 12 years ago. He asked Mr Nawaz why he would not take the new ball when it was due. He replied that he would rather bowl with the old ball as it swung more.

Mr Nawaz told him he achieved this by dampening the shiny side with spit and by scratching or scuffing the rough side. Mr Larkins said he had never seen Mr Nawaz do anything illegal in a game.

A former Northamptonshire opening bowler, Alan Hodgson, told the jury that he saw Mr Nawaz cheat by tampering with the ball during a charity match in 1991.

The case continues today, when another former England star, Ian Botham, is due to give evidence.