Natwest T20 Blast: Blast fails to stifle match-fixing talk

The spectre of corruption clouds the carnival atmosphere as English cricket launches new T20 competition, writes Chris Stocks at Lord’s

There was a carnival atmosphere as Middlesex welcomed the revamped Twenty20 competition to Lord’s with a double-header against Essex and Sussex.

Aside from finals day, when three games are played in one day, the concept had never been tried before in English cricket. Yet despite the bright sunshine, the spectre of corruption hung over proceedings like an ash cloud.

The choice of opponents, two of Middlesex’s main rivals in the South Division of the NatWest T20 Blast, gave an unwelcome reminder of the seedy side of the game. Sussex, of course, are one of the sides implicated in the latest round of allegations, which centre on their former batsman Lou Vincent.

The New Zealander has given the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) details of match-fixing across five countries from 2008 to 2012.

Three games in England are under investigation. Two involve Sussex – a Twenty20 and a 40-over contest, both from 2011 – and a Lancashire T20 from 2008, when Vincent was playing for the county. It is understood no player other than Vincent is under investigation for wrongdoing in these games. However, the timing of the latest match-fixing revelations could not have been worse given the publicity the England & Wales Cricket Board have given to the new-look version of their most high-profile competition.

Essex, who won the first match of this double header by eight wickets, are another club who have been scarred by corruption. Mervyn Westfield, their former bowler, spent eight weeks in jail in 2012 for spot-fixing during a 40-over game against Durham in September 2009. Only last month, Danish Kaneria, the former Pakistan leg-spinner found guilty of grooming Westfield, failed in his High Court bid to overturn the verdict of an ECB disciplinary panel which handed him a life ban.

Andrew Balbirnie of Middlesex attempts to take a stunning catch... Andrew Balbirnie of Middlesex attempts to take a stunning catch... ...but falls over the boundary in his efforts... ...but falls over the boundary in his efforts... ...before rolling backwards over to the crowd's amusement ...before rolling backwards over to the crowd's amusement Despite a handsome win for Essex at Lord’s, it was indicative of the day that Ravi Bopara was forced to field questions about the topic de jour and not the unbeaten 45 from 24 balls which sealed victory for his side. But the England batsman spoke well, saying: “Nobody wants this, it’s a beautiful game. The last thing we want to do is put fans off. We want to keep this game as clean as possible and keep the fans enjoying it. It’s a horrible place to be when the fans are questioning everything.”

Shifting uncomfortably in his chair beside Bopara was Mark Pettini, also chosen to speak after an unbeaten innings of 95 which underpinned his side’s successful pursuit of 181.

Pettini was club captain during Kaneria’s time at Essex and was one of several players who heard their disgraced former team-mate talking about fixing in the dressing-room. All had dismissed it as “banter” at the time, a naivety which Bopara believes is no longer there.

“I certainly know what to do,” said Bopara. “I think it could be drummed into county cricket a little bit more just how important it actually is to report it if something is dodgy. ”

Bopara also backed calls from England’s Ian Bell to ban communication devices from dressing-rooms for televised county games as is standard practice in international cricket. “We get our mobiles taken off us here at Essex,” he said. “You don’t need to speak to anyone in half a day. If that’s what it’s going to take to keep it clean then let’s do it.”

With a gap in the Indian Premier League schedule thanks to the impending result of the election in the country, the T20 Blast has a global audience this weekend. Both games at Lord’s yesterday were shown live on Star Sports in India. It is such exposure that makes county games vulnerable to illegal bookmakers on the sub-continent. However, those watching the action at Lord’s for the love of the game rather than flagrant profiteering had much to enjoy.

There were pyrotechnics from Eoin Morgan, who will captain England in the one-off T20 international at The Oval on Tuesday. The Dublin-born batsman struck 77 from 43 balls during a 118-run stand with Dawid Malan, who top-scored for Middlesex with 86 from 57 deliveries.

The home side really should have set Essex a total in excess of 200 after they were 139 for two after 15 overs.But some fine death-bowling from left-arm seamer Reece Topley, who took three for 26, pegged back Middlesex to a manageable total.

Essex made light work of their chase, reaching 90 for one at the halfway point. Bopara, who arrived at the crease when Jesse Ryder fell for 15 on his Essex debut, then hit 23 off his last five deliveries to help the visitors wrap up victory with seven balls to spare.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Sivero in Goodfellas; Simpsons' wise guy Louie

The sound of Goodfellas mafioso Frankie Carbone demanding $250m in “damages” would be chilling enough on film, let alone in real life.

News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?