Limited future: one-day series to go ahead

One-day series to go ahead despite betting allegations but new revelations cast further shadow over beleaguered Pakistan team
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The Independent Online

England's one-day series against Pakistan will be played despite the allegations of match rigging hanging over it. Talks yesterday brokered by the International Cricket Council ended in agreement from all parties that the seven matches, due to start in Cardiff on Sunday, should proceed as planned, although half the tourists' squad have been implicated in a betting scandal.

It emerged that their captain, Salman Butt, one of those named, was already under investigation by the ICC's anti-corruption unit for previous alleged misdemeanours. That carefully leaked information appeared to make his position untenable.

For the series of two Twenty20 and five 50-over matches to proceed, it appeared that Butt and the side's two opening bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, would be suspended. All three have been accused of playing prominent roles in the scam.

Sharad Pawar, the ICC president, pre-empted any formal announcement of what should happen on the rest of the tour, which is scheduled to last until 22 September, by saying in India: "It is the desire of the ICC and the cricket boards of Pakistan and England that the game should continue." The rest of the cricket world, however, seemed more sceptical that the two Twenty20 and five 50-over matches could or should take place.

In a sting operation the News of the World, dealing with a middleman called Mazhar Majeed, revealed that Asif and Aamer had both deliberately bowled no-balls in the fourth Test and that Butt was instrumental in ensuring they did so. The paper paid Majeed £150,000 to convince him that they wanted to become part of his betting ring and in return he showed them what influence he had with the players, to many of whom he acts as agent.

Majeed was arrested on Saturday but released on bail without charge early yesterday, with further interviews planned. The newspaper also reported that Majeed said that it had already been decided that Pakistan would lose two of the five one-day internationals.

Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the ICC, promised tough action after the conference calls involving Giles Clarke and Ijaz Butt, the chairmen of the English and Pakistani cricket boards. "The integrity of the game is of paramount importance," he said.

"Prompt and decisive action will be taken against those who seek to harm it. However, the facts must first be established through a thorough investigation and it is important to respect the right of due process when addressing serious allegations of this sort.

"Make no mistake, once the process is complete if any players are found guilty the ICC will ensure the appropriate punishment is handed out. We will not tolerate corrupt in this great game."

Although both boards were keen for the matches to continue, Pakistan were waiting to receive guidance, if not direct instruction, from their government.

England's players seemed not only willing but happy for the matches to proceed. Angus Porter, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, said: "What is important is that the appropriate permanent actions are taken. One of the dangers of leaping to something precipitous is that a political environment will be created in which the proper decisions cannot be taken."