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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

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?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London