ECB asks Bacher for information

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The Independent Online

The England and Wales Cricket Board has asked Dr Ali Bacher to hand them any evidence he has on alleged match-fixing in last year's World Cup.

Bacher, the managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, claimed in an Australian newspaper interview that the outcome of at least two matches was fixed, although he admitted there is no proof to back up his statement.

His comments will almost certainly be taken into account by the South African judicial inquiry which was launched immediately after Hansie Cronje admitted accepting money from an Indian businessman in return for information on his country's recent one-day series in India.

However, just days after meeting Chris Lewis to discuss the England all-rounder's claims that three members of the England squad were at the centre of another betting scandal, the ECB has been dragged into the controversy yet again.

"We have seen Dr Ali Bacher's statement and we welcome any further information he can provide as part of the ongoing process to root out this problem from world cricket," said an ECB spokesman, Mark Hodgson. It seems certain that Tim Lamb, the ECB chief executive, will contact Bacher to discuss the situation. Pakistan's stunning 62-run World Cup defeat by Bangladesh in Northampton will certainly figure in any investigation.

It is also now clear that a judge to chair the South African inquiry will not be in place until next week. Although it was thought an appointment would be made imminently, the holiday weekend has slowed matters. The delay will frustrate the UCB, who want the matter dealt with as soon as possible, so they can pass the information on to the International Cricket Council, who are holding their own summit on the scandal next month.

However, Graham Abrahams, spokesman for the South African ministry of sport, insisted the judiciary was aware of the pressing need to get the inquiry underway. "We do recognise the need to act on this issue and time is of the essence," he said. "However, there is a legal process to go through and the case is with the Ministry of Justice."

When the inquiry is held, it is likely to be more revealing than the one held by the Indian government, the findings of which were released yesterday. The investigation centred on the former Test all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar's claims of match-fixing in the 1990s.

Prabhakar refused to name anyone, claiming he was not in a position to prove the charges. As expected, the report rejected his accusations, and has been criticised by Indian newspapers as a cover-up.