Cronje inquiry will probe England Test

Disgraced South African captain to be investigated over decision to forfeit innings in shock finish at Centurion Park
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The Independent Online

South Africa's United Cricket Board said yesterday it would look into the role of their sacked captain, Hansie Cronje, in the fifth Test against England at Centurion Park in January.

With South Africa already assured of winning the series, the middle three days were washed out and Cronje suggested that both sides forfeit an innings to to avoid the inevitable draw.

England won by two wickets in a match hailed at the time as a ground-breaking result for cricket with Cronje being praised for his bold stance.

"Percy Sonn [the UCB president ] has confirmed that the last day of the Centurion Park Test would be covered in the inquiry as well as any other major points of suspicion," said the UCB spokesman Bronwyn Wilkinson.

The UCB have promised that a full inquiry will be launched after Cronje admitted receiving between $10,000 (£6,250) and $15,000 (£9,375) from an unnamed bookmaker for information relating to matches involving South Africa earlier this year.

A Constitutional Court Judge, Albie Sachs, has been asked to head the inquiry into corruption in the sport and Cronje's alleged involvement.

Ali Bacher, the UCB managing director, said on Tuesday that Cronje received the money during the first one-day international between South Africa and Zimbabwe, three days after the England game.

Officials from the South African government and the cricket board will meet in Cape Town today in an attempt to bring a speedy conclusion to the scandal.

Cronje was conspicuous by his absence as South Africa, under the stewardship of Shaun Pollock, took on Australia in the first one-day international in Durban yesterday. Of the other three men charged with cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy by Indian police - Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom - only Gibbs was in Pollock's side.

The inquiry process will start today when the South African sports minister, Ngconde Balfour, meets UCB officials to discuss terms of reference.

A Government spokesman, Graham Abrahams, confirmed that Cronje did receive cash for his involvement in the betting scandal, despite Balfour on Tuesday denying the claim - on Cronje's behalf - which had originally been made by Bacher.

"There was no confusion," he said. "The minister was denying money was received for match-fixing, he was not denying that money had been received for passing on information."

The International Cricket Council have confirmed that they will await details of the UCB report before deciding what action to take against Cronje, whose South African contract has been suspended and will not be renewed when it expires at the end of this month.

However, the ICC chief executive David Richards has urged every player not to hesitate in reporting any approaches made by bookmakers.

"I don't mind whether it is done through the ICC, any domestic cricket board, a trusted friend within the game or even the media, it must be reported," he said. "The people who are making these approaches are breaking the law and we will give the police authorities every assistance in bringing them to justice."

Meanwhile, Indian police are continuing to piece together their match-fixing inquiry after charging Cronje, Gibbs, Boje and Strydom in relation to last month's one-day series in India, which South Africa lost 3-2.

Although the actual tape of Cronje's conversation with the London-based bookmaker Sanjeev Chawla has still not been released, New Delhi police insist they have built up a strong case against the quartet. They have been backed by India's Home Minister, Lal Krishna Advani.

"The Delhi Police have done the right thing and not committed any mistake on the issue," he said. "The fear that they acted in haste does not stand in the event of Cronje's admission," he said.

South Africa's deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad, said the matter of extradition had not come up yet, and ruled out that it would happen before the inquiry had been completed. South Africa does not have an extradition treaty with India, but its constitution enables the president to approve extradition requests.

"The Indian High Commissioner indicated to me that he was convinced that the Indian police would not have made a statement if they did not have evidence."

"I asked him to convey the message that his government must work closely with us on the matter but until a judicial inquiry carries out an investigation we'll be left in doubt about the truth and only then can we seriously consider what to do."