Cricket chief pledges 'prompt action' against cheats

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of cricket's ruling body today promised "prompt and decisive action" against anyone found cheating after four Pakistan players were accused of match-fixing.

Haroon Lorgat, of the International Cricket Council (ICC), said he hoped that, by the weekend, there would be "some sort of a conclusion" to the investigation into claims of corruption during the Test at Lord's.

The News of the World said two Pakistan fast bowlers agreed to bowl no balls - foul deliveries - at certain times during last week's Test after reporters posing as Far Eastern businessmen paid a middleman £150,000.

The allegations are being investigated by Scotland Yard.

Cricket agent Mazhar Majeed, 35, is currently on police bail.

The ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) is also investigating the claims and Mr Lorgat said in a statement today: "The integrity of the game is of paramount importance. Prompt and decisive action will be taken against those who seek to harm it."

He said the facts must be established, but added: "Make no mistake - once the process is complete, if any players are found to be guilty, the ICC will ensure that the appropriate punishment is handed out.

"We will not tolerate corruption in this great game."

Cricketers found guilty of cheating could be thrown out of the sport but Mr Lorgat said "a couple of individuals that might have got caught up in corrupt practices" should not bring the entire game to a standstill.

Pakistan are due to play England in a Twenty20 game on Sunday and Mr Lorgat told BBC Radio Five Live "hopefully before the weekend arrives we can get to some sort of a conclusion".

He spoke following talks with high-ranking officials from the England and Pakistan camps and said: "We were ensuring among all of us that we want to see the same outcome and same objectives - and that is for anyone found guilty of corruption to be taken out of the sport.

"We have got that commitment from all the parties."

There has been no move to suspend any players at the centre of the claims, meaning that, as it stands, they can take the field against Somerset on Thursday and against England on Sunday.

Players, including the four questioned by police, refused to answer questions from reporters as they arrived at their hotel in Taunton yesterday.

Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed has confirmed that Test captain Salman Butt, bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, and wicket keeper Kamran Akmal, were questioned by officers at the team hotel in London on Saturday night.

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)- the country's highest law enforcement agency - has sent three investigators to the UK.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the team would help Scotland Yard but also investigate the allegations independently.

Reports have suggested that other matches may have been fixed and up to 80 international Tests could form part of the police investigation.

The claims are the latest in a string of match-fixing allegations to dog the team since the 1990s.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf, Raza Gilani, who officially launched the FIA investigation, said: "The latest fixing allegations have bowed our heads in shame."

Majeed owns Croydon Athletic Football Club. A statement on its website said the club was "devastated and appalled" to hear of the alleged match-fixing and awaited guidance from the Ryman League.

England bowler Graeme Swann said today that he believed Pakistan gave "100%" during the Test series.

Swann, who took 22 wickets during the series, said in his column in The Sun newspaper that "every one was earned properly".

"It is inevitable doubters will say Pakistan's batsmen got out on purpose but I am sure that is totally untrue.

"I've had to work hard for every wicket and, no matter what anyone might think or say, I feel proud of my achievements this summer.

"Out in the middle I've felt Pakistan were giving 100% all the time. I'm sure all the other England players feel the same."

Swann said he was keen for the Twenty20 matches and one-day internationals against Pakistan to go ahead.

Australia all-rounder Shane Watson and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin confirmed today that they had both been approached by an Indian bookmaker in the past 16 months.

Watson was targeted during last year's Ashes tour of England, while a similar approach was made to Haddin during this year's World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

Speaking at a press conference in Sydney, both men said they reported the incidents to team management but insisted they were never specifically asked to alter the result of a match.

Watson said he was invited out for drinks by someone he did not know and reported the approach to team manager Steve Bernard and John Rhodes, who manages the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) in Australia and New Zealand.

"I think they checked footage of who the person was and it was someone that they were well aware of," he said.

"I heard that Brad Haddin had a similar conversation with an Indian guy and, after talking with him as well and describing the gentleman that was talking to us, it seemed like it was the same guy."

Watson said he had a lot of respect for 18-year-old Aamer, one of the four Pakistan players questioned by British police, whom he described as a "brilliant competitor on the field" and a "young, naive and innocent young guy".

A spokesman for Irish bookmaker Paddy Power told BBC Breakfast that anyone involved in spot betting might not think they were harming their sport.

He said spot betting tended to focus on events which happen during a game but do not affect its outcome.

"For example, a no-ball in a game is probably not going to affect the result of the match overall; therefore, if there was some sort of fix put in there on a no ball, it seems like the only victim might be the bookies or it might be harmless, but it's actually the first step down a slippery slope," he said.