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Cricket's fight against fixing

Spectator reads News of the World at Lord's
A spectator at Lord's catches up with the latest allegations at the start of the fourth day's play

By Mike Henson

The allegations that Pakistan's bowlers delivered no-balls to order during a Lord's Test against England is just the latest blow inflicted on the integrity of cricket.

The sport has waged a decade-long battle to protect the purity of the game from the millions of pounds gambled, not just on the outcome of matches, but on what takes place during them.

WHY ARE THE NO-BALLS SIGNIFICANT?

The bowling of a no-ball - when a bowler's front foot passes entirely over the popping crease - is not likely to make any highlights reels.

It costs the fielding side a run and means the batsman can effectively have a free hit at the delivery.

But the myriad of different aspects of a game that are now available to be bet on means it could be very financially significant for a someone, somewhere in the world.

Spot-betting is a type of gambling on markets that are effectively "games within games".

This could be things such as the runs scored in a specific 10-over period, the number of catches in an innings, the number of runs scored by a specific player or the number of no-balls in an innings.

Being able to accurately predict even small parts of the game is potentially very lucrative.

Added to that, the popularity of spread-betting has soared over the past 10 years.

In this form of betting, not only the bet itself but also the size of the stake won or lost or lost are determined by events on the field.

For example, a bookmaker may make a forecast on the number of runs scored in an over and gamblers bet on whether that prediction is too high or low.

Their winnings or losses will correspond with the difference between the runs actually scored and the bookmakers' forecast.

An unexpected run of either good or bad form can therefore win or lose fortunes.

Many cricket fans in South Asia are unable to bet on matches with gambling illegal in Pakistan and highly restricted in India.

But the popularity of cricket in the region and the satellite television coverage of games from all over the world has been exploited by criminal gangs who have set up popular illegal markets.

CRICKET'S PREVIOUS OFFENDERS

The controversy surrounding the late Hansie Cronje is the most famous emblem of cricket's betting scandals.

In 2000, the South Africa captain, a born-again Christian, admitted receiving money from bookmakers in exchange for inside information and asking his team-mates to play badly in certain matches.

Technically, many of the activities fell short of match-fixing, although he also admitted fixing the result of a rain-affected Test against England in Centurion, near Johannesburg, in 1999, when the two sides agreed a target for the tourists to chase.

Revelations of the reach and regularity of gambling's influence in the game shocked a sport that prides itself on its gentlemanly spirit.

Cronje received a life ban and fellow South Africans Hershcelle Gibbs and Henry Williams were sidelined for a shorter time after agreeing to Cronje's requests to under-perform.

Cronje died in a plane crash in 2002, with an inquest blaming pilot error.

Later that year India captain Mohammad Azharuddin and batsman Ajay Sharma received life bans from their own domestic board on the basis of testimonies from bookmakers.

Two other players received five-year bans along with the team's physiotherapist.

Hansie Cronje
Cronje died in a plane crash in 2002

But Pakistan had already had its own national scandal before Cronje's fall.

Well-regarded former captain Salim Malik and medium pace bowler Ata-ur Rehman received life bans from the sport for match-fixing in May 2000.

These were subsequently overturned in 2008 and 2007 respectively, but the suspicion surrounding the country's cricketers has reared its head several times since.

Most recently the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit launched an investigation into Pakistan's disastrous tour of Australia in December and January.

The tourists were whitewashed 3-0 in the Test series, including a capitulation from a dominant position in Sydney, before losing 5-0 in the one-day series Down Under.

The Pakistan Cricket Board subsequently held an investigation which resulted in several players being banned and fined for misconduct but failed to find any evidence of match-fixing.

Lord Condon, the head of the corruption unit at the time, described the tour as "dysfunctional".

With more games broadcast in more countries than ever, it is not just the international game that is under scrutiny.

Two Essex players, spinner Danish Kaneria and pace bowler Mervyn Westfield, were arrested in May on suspicion of spot-fixing in a Pro40 match against Durham in September.

Both have been bailed without charge until 15 September.

THE FIGHTBACK

The ICC reacted to the banning of three national team captains in 2000 by setting up its anti-corruption unit to investigate allegations of wrong-doing.

The unit, which was led from its inception by Lord Condon, is now chaired by another former British police chief, Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

It provides security managers to every international series to ensure that anti-corruption protocol around the grounds are adhered to.

In addition every top-level player passes through a programme that educates them on how they could be "groomed" by criminal gangs and what penalties they face if they become involved in a conspiracy.

When he retired in May, Condon expressed the opinion that the game was cleaner than it had been in the last decade.

But he also revealed that three players were approached by bookmakers during the World Twenty20 tournament in England last year, showing that the fight is far from over.



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see also
Anti-corruption post for Flanagan
05 May 10 |  Cricket
Inquiry into Pakistan series loss
21 May 10 |  Pakistan
Suspended Samuels set to appeal
25 May 08 |  West Indies
Azharuddin hit with life ban
05 Dec 00 |  Corruption in Cricket
Cronje loses appeal
17 Oct 01 |  Cricket
Malik guilty of match-fixing
24 May 00 |  Cricket
Understanding the no-ball law
29 Aug 10 |  Laws & Equipment



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