'He wanted to call Hussain... I refused'

Cronje confesses to deals with bookmakers but clears England captain of conspiracy in Centurion Park Test

Hansie Cronje yesterday described in detail the events which led to his declaration on the final day of the fifth Test between South Africa and England at Centurion Park in January, and admitted he had accepted around £5,000 plus a leather jacket from a bookmaker for his part in attempting to engineer a positive result to the match.

Hansie Cronje yesterday described in detail the events which led to his declaration on the final day of the fifth Test between South Africa and England at Centurion Park in January, and admitted he had accepted around £5,000 plus a leather jacket from a bookmaker for his part in attempting to engineer a positive result to the match.

Cronje's declaration, which many observers at the time - including Derek Pringle, the Independent's cricket correspondent - felt was suspiciously out of character, has been the subject of mounting speculation for several months.

Reading from a prepared statement at the King Commission of inquiry into match- fixing here yesterday, Cronje started his testimony to Judge Edwin King by apologising to his family and team-mates.

"It is time for me to try to repay a part of the enormous debt which I owe to cricket and to try to repair some of the damage which I have caused the game, South Africa, my family and the public," he said.

"My initial denials of involvement made publicly and to the United Cricket Board were untruthful; my letter of 11 April was also untruthful in a number of respects; and so, too, was the subsequent press statement issued on my instructions... I was not honest and I apologise unreservedly."

Cronje first revealed details of how he had been offered a $10,000 (£6,500) bribe to throw a game against Pakistan in 1995, which he declined. He then admitted to taking his first bribe, for $30,000, in 1996 from a man named as Mukesh Gupta, who Cronje said was introduced to him by the former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin during South Africa's third Test against India at Kanpur.

Cronje said that he had never thrown or fixed a match, but admitted to repeatedly lying about his involvement with bookmakers, despite turning down numerous offers from them.

Moving on to events surrounding the Centurion Park Test in January, he said: "Play commenced [on day one], but was interrupted by protracted rain and it became clear that it would play out to a draw."

"On the fourth day during the rain interruption, a meeting was held between me, Nasser Hussain, Dr Ali Bacher, the match umpires and the match referee. Dr Bacher was anxious to save the game as a spectacle. There was pressure on him to turn it into a one-day international but this was apparently not possible.

"On the evening of the fourth day, I received a call on my cellphone. The caller identified himself as Marlon Aronstam. Marlon urged me to speak to Nasser Hussain about an early declaration to make a contest of it, saying this would be good both for me and for cricket.

"Marlon revealed that he was involved with NSI, a listed company which I now know to be involved in sports betting... Marlon said that if we declared and made a game of it, he would give 500,000 rand (£50,000) to a charity of my choice and would also give me a gift... he wanted to call Hussain, who was in the same hotel, to my room. I refused because I did not want him involved.

"Marlon asked me to call and let him know if and when we decided to declare. The England team and management seemed reluctant and I called Marlon and left a message that there would be no declaration. Play was resumed, but about 45 minutes into the match I received a message from Nasser Hussain that the English were now interested in a competitive declaration... I sent an [electronic] message to Marlon advising that 'the game is on'. He subsequently told me that it had been impossible for him to get any bets on the game.

"After the game, Marlon visited me where we were staying, and gave me a leather jacket and 50,000 rand in two cash amounts on consecutive days... He said it was in consideration of me giving him information in the future. The 500,000 rand which had been promised to a charity did not materialise and was never mentioned again."

The South African fast bowler Allan Donald said he was stunned by Cronje's revelations. "My whole career with him just keeps flashing past me since I found out," said Donald, who plays for Warwickshire. "It's incredible. It's just greed really that's made him do this.

"The thing that shocked me was that he never told our manager: 'There's a man on my tail - get him off'. If I'd found out I would have done something about it. He knows how I feel about things like this. Hansie will feel a bit better now for saying what he had to say."

Cronje's successor, Shaun Pollock, felt that: "We [South Africa] have come out OK if that is the truth. It is good for us that it was caught early. We can now move forward. The game of cricket has been tarnished. But we can now begin to restore pride in playing for the national team," he said.

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