'Just a friendly': banned Pakistan cricketer defends village match

When the opening batsmen for the Surrey village cricket team of St Lukes walked out to the crease on Saturday, every amateur sportsman in the country would have sympathised about the nightmare facing them.

Marking out his run-up for the opposition was not a village-green pie-chucker but Mohammad Amir, the former Pakistan fast bowler capable of destroying the stumps of many an international player, who had signed up for an afternoon game with their rivals, Addington 1743.

It was not just a sense of gentlemanly fairness that should have prevented this mismatch, of course. Amir is banned by the International Cricket Council from any cricket-related activity for five years for his part in the "spot-fixing" scandal in which he is alleged to have deliberately bowled no-balls against England at Lord's last year.

Amir claimed yesterday that he had believed he was entitled to play, saying in an interview that he had been told the game was "a friendly match, being played on a privately-owned cricket ground", despite the scorecard on Addington's website stating that it was a league fixture.

"I asked the club representatives if the match fell under the jurisdiction of the ECB [England & Wales Cricket Board] and they informed me that the match did not," he said.

"I spoke to several club representatives about the issue and they all told me that it was a friendly match and therefore would not contravene my ban from the ICC. I was informed that I was fine to play."

He added: "I would not be stupid enough to knowingly play in a match that I knew would contravene my ban. Wherever I am going to play cricket, the world will know about it. I would not be stupid enough to play in a match where I knew that I would be taking a risk."

Amir's hasty obliteration of St Lukes this weekend, as he took four wickets for a miserly nine runs in just seven overs, looks likely to have ramifications beyond the bruises his opponents suffered.

The ECB and the ICC both said yesterday that they were investigating the game. The ECB appeared to confirm it had taken place as part of the Surrey Cricket League Division 1, but said it would not be offering any further comment because of the impending criminal proceedings facing Amir.

The cricketer will be tried in Southwark Crown Court in October for his part in the spot-fixing affair, alongside teammate Mohammad Asif and their former captain Salman Butt, who were also banned from the game for seven years and 10 years respectively.

It was not just the St Lukes batsmen who suffered; he also knocked their bowlers around the park while opening the batting, scoring 60 runs.

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