Cricket: Warne tells of casino encounter

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SHANE WARNE and Mark Waugh yesterday told how they had been offered pounds 120,000 each by then Pakistan captain Salim Malik to throw matches. The two Australian Test players, who played leading roles in the Ashes series against England that ended on Tuesday, also said they had accepted thousands of dollars from a bookmaker to whom they had given match weather and pitch information.

Warne, the game's most successful spin bowler, said he was offered and accepted $5,000 (pounds 3,125) after losing money in a Colombo casino in circumstances that read like a John Le Carre novel.

The players were questioned in Melbourne by the Ali Sibtain Fazli, who is leading the Pakistan Cricket Board inquiry into allegations of bribery and corruption.

Waugh, the prolific middle-order batsman, told the hearing - held in Australia because the two players had been reluctant to travel to Pakistan - that while on tour in Sri Lanka in 1994 he had received $4,000 from a bookmaker identified as "John" in return for pitch and weather information.

Warne's dealings with "John" began after they met at a casino in Colombo. He was given $5,000 after losing money at the tables, believing there were "no strings attached".

Warne had been introduced to the bookmaker by Waugh. "John" had then approached Warne the next day and told him he had noticed that he had lost money at the casino and added that he was his favourite player.

Warne told the inquiry that "John" had given him an envelope containing the money, which he had at first rejected. "He handed me an envelope. I looked in the envelope and saw that there was money in it," Warne said. "He said: `Please accept it as a token of my appreciation for you to take the time to meet me'." Warne said he told the bookmaker: "I've got my own money, I'm fine, thanks."

"He said: `It's a pleasure to meet you, please take it. I don't want anything in return'."

Warne said he again tried to reject the money, but finally accepted it when the bookmaker said he had plenty of money and would be offended if Warne refused the envelope. The bowler said he had never seen the man again, although he had been contacted by him several times with requests for information on weather and pitch conditions before matches in Australia.

"However, I never gave any information that was not generally available to the public and indeed, as a senior Australian cricketer, I regularly provide a lot more detailed information about playing conditions to the media," Warne said. "I appreciate now that I made a mistake. At the time I was 24. I was naive and stupid. I regret my actions."

Waugh told the inquiry that he was also paid to provide information about 10 times to the same Indian bookmaker. "He offered $4,000 for providing such information," Waugh said. "I told him I was prepared to talk to him about pitch and weather conditions, but not individuals, team tactics or team selection."

Warne and Waugh were fined by the Australian Cricket Board in 1995 over the payments, but the matter was kept secret until last month.

After touring Sri Lanka the Australian team went to Pakistan, where Waugh and Warne said they were approached on separate occasions by Salim. Warne said the night before the last day of the first Test between Australia and Pakistan in September 1994 Malik had offered $200,000 for him and Tim May to bowl wide of the off stump and poorly to cause a draw.

Waugh said that later during the tour Malik approached him before a one- day international in Rawalpindi and offered $200,000 if he would ask four or five other Australian players to perform badly during the match.