Match-fixing fears rise after ECB revelation

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The Independent Online

Two county cricketers have reported to the ECB that they had been approached by bookmakers, it was revealed yesterday. The news came after an earlier revelation that an unnamed county player had been asked to "name his price" to throw a match.

The ECB, which has given the information to the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit, has not named the two players but the news has only added to unease in the game over the risk of match-fixing. One worried by the possible influence of bookmakers is England captain Andrew Strauss, who said yesterday that English cricket must ensure match- fixing is "stamped out".

The county game has long had to live with unsubstantiated rumours of financial malpractice – rumours that only increased after Danish Kaneria and Mervyn Westfield of Essex were arrested, and later bailed, as part of an investigation into spot- betting this season – but suggestions that huge sums of money may be involved have shaken English cricket. Strauss says the threat must be taken seriously.

"If it is happening, it needs to be stamped out straight away," he said. "There's no place for it in any form of cricket and, certainly in domestic cricket, we've got a duty as players to make sure that if we hear of it, or are approached by someone, we come forward and report it straight away.

"For players to be tempted by taking money is ludicrous in my mind. The authorities are doing everything they can, but there is a huge responsibility on the players to make sure it doesn't take hold and spread."

His Bangladesh counterpart, Shakib Al Hasan, said he was once approached by a suspicious individual eager to act as his "sponsor". "It was a long time ago, two-and-a-half years ago, only once," he said. "He called me and I told the guys. That was it."

Lancashire chief executive Jim Cumbes said the news had surprised him. "We knew there were rumblings on the subcontinent for some time but we didn't expect it in county cricket," he said. "Players are warned at the start of the season. They're told that if they hear anything fishy to call the Professional Cricketers' Association. The safeguards are there for players to blow the whistle."