ECB looks into 1991 Essex-Lancashire games

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The Independent Online

Cricket's probe into match fixing took another twist today when the England and Wales Cricket Board said it was investigating two domestic games between Essex and Lancashire nine years ago.

Cricket's probe into match fixing took another twist today when the England and Wales Cricket Board said it was investigating two domestic games between Essex and Lancashire nine years ago.

The ECB is looking into allegations of collusion between the two counties who played each other twice near the end of the season with Essex closing in on the county championship and Lancashire chasing the Sunday League title.

According to former Zimbabwe coach and Essex seam bowler Don Topley, Lancashire agreed to play badly so that Essex won the county championship match in return for a similar arrangement in reverse in the Sunday League game.

Although the Essex victory helped it win the county championship, Lancashire's triumphed couldn't prevent it catching Nottinghamshire in the Sunday League.

When Topley, who played in the games, first made the allegations six years ago, they were dismissed. But the ECG is now looking at new evidence reportedly from other players from the two games.

With match-fixing allegations now rife and worldwide and players from India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, the West Indies and England all under investigation, ECB chairman MacLaurin admitted the Essex-Lancashire claims would be looked at.

"We haven't completed the inquiry," he told BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday. "It is an ongoing inquiry and, as and when, we will have something to say about that. I'm not prepared to say any more about it because the inquiry is ongoing."

News that the nine-year-old games comes at a time when MacLaurin is under fire from Pakistan cricket authorities for not suspended former England captain Alec Stewart, who has been named in a report in India in connection with a betting scam.

Stewart, who is on tour in Pakistan with the England team, is alleged to received money from an Indian bookmaker seven years ago to give inside information about matches he was due to play in. He denies the allegations and says he never knowingly met the bookmaker.

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