Lord's clash to go ahead

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The Independent Online

Today's fourth NatWest Series match at Lord's is set to go ahead as scheduled, the England and Wales Cricket Board have confirmed this morning.

The cricket world was still awaiting an official ECB statement, containing their reaction to Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt's astonishing counter-claims - during the ongoing spot-fixing crisis - that English players were paid "enormous amounts of money" to lose Friday's one-day international at the Oval.

But an ECB spokesman has told The Guardian that the home board are "planning as though the game [between England and Pakistan] will take place" and that is "unlikely to change".

Butt insisted earlier today that his side are happy for the series, currently standing at 2-1 to England after Pakistan's 23-run win three days ago, to continue.

Yesterday, the PCB chairman claimed in an interview with NDTV that there was talk in the bookmaking fraternity that some England players had "taken enormous amounts of money" to fix Friday's match.

He also said then: "We have positive proofs (of the allegations) here before us." But today, he told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I have never said this.

"If you listen to the full tape of the NDTV interview, the bookies are saying this. I am not saying this."

Asked about overnight fears the remaining matches - at Lord's and the Rose Bowl on Wednesday - could be scrapped by the ECB, Butt added: "If they [the ECB] want to scrap it they can scrap it. We will go ahead with it."

Butt was quoted in the interview with NDTV as saying: "There is loud and clear talk in bookie circles that some English players have taken enormous amounts of money to lose the match [the third ODI]. No wonder there was such a collapse."

When asked in the same interview whether the PCB had any proof of the allegations regarding English players, Butt responded with a question: "Did you ask the other people who made allegations against our players whether they had any proof? What did they say? We have thought about this properly and we have positive proofs here before us just like they say they have also."

Butt was keen to focus instead on the situation of Pakistan's suspended trio Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer - who have been charged under the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption code following allegations that no-balls were deliberately bowled to defraud illegal bookmakers during the fourth Test at Lord's.

"This is not a conspiracy to defraud the bookies. Our boys were suspended by the ICC, and they had no business to suspend them without any proof," he said.

"We feel that this a conspiracy to defraud and defame Pakistan cricket."

In another indication that the match was set to be played, England arrived at Lord's in very good time for today's encounter, shortly after 10.30 this morning and took part in some warm-up exercises in the nets.

As of 11.10 the Pakistan team had not arrived but there was no suggestion that they were not planning to turn up.

Pakistan also arrived by 11.15am, and there was every indication both teams were preparing to play - with or without any statement from the ECB before the scheduled start time of 1pm.