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Cricketer Westfield charged for deliberately playing poorly

Former Essex fast-bowler Mervyn Westfield was accused of fraud today over claims he deliberately played poorly.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Westfield had been charged with conspiracy to defraud.

Investigators allege he acted dishonestly during a match between Durham and Essex on September 5, 2009.

It is alleged he dishonestly agreed to bowl his first over in such a way as to allow a certain number of runs to be scored.

Antony Swift, of the CPS, said Westfield would appear at City of London Magistrates' Court next Thursday at 10am.

Westfield, 22, of Chelmsford, was arrested in May after suspicions were raised over a 40-over match.

A second player, Essex and Pakistan leg spinner Danish Kaneria, 29, was also arrested and questioned but police said last week that he will face no further action.

Police were investigating allegations surrounding spot betting, a niche area of gambling where people bet on specific occurrences in a game.

Swift added: "I have advised that Mervyn Westfield should be charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud for intentionally playing other than to the best of his ability, contrary to his contractual obligations.

"It is alleged that he dishonestly agreed to bowl his first over to allow the scoring of a certain number of runs at a match between Durham and Essex on September 5, 2009.

"I have made this decision after careful consideration of a file of evidence from Essex Police.

"There is sufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Westfield and it is in the public interest to do so."

Westfield was charged this morning at Rayleigh police station in Essex. He has been released on bail.

The player is accused of conspiring to defraud the club's members, his team-mates and spectators at the match.

The offence, under the Criminal Justice Act 1987, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

The charge is a fresh blow to the reputation of a game engulfed by controversy over claims of corruption.

Scotland Yard detectives continue to probe allegations members of the Pakistan cricket team deliberately bowled no balls during their tour of England.

Businessman Mazhar Majeed is accused of accepting £150,000 to fix the actions of captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer during the fourth Test at Lord's.

The three players have been interviewed under caution and suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC). They deny any wrongdoing.

A fourth player, Fast bowler Wahab Riaz, was also questioned by police under caution on Tuesday.