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No evidence of Perth Test under fixing threat: ICC

PERTH (Monitoring Desk): The International Cricket Council (ICC) are taking allegations in a British newspaper about attempts to organize spot-fixing during the third Ashes Test ‘extremely seriously’ but do not think the match has been compromised, global cricket’s governing body said on Thursday.

The Sun reported that underground bookmakers from India had offered to sell undercover reporters from the newspaper information about spot-fixing in the Test between Australia and England, which started at the WACA in Perth on Thursday.

Cricket Australia said the report was a ‘serious concern’, while the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said they were ‘aware’ of the allegations even if there had been no suggestion any England players were involved.

Spot-fixing occurs when corrupt players agree to manipulate part of a match by, for example, bowling a wide on a particular delivery or ensuring a particular run rate.

The corruption does not usually affect the overall outcome of the match but gamblers in the know can use the information to beat the betting market.

The underground bookmakers told the reporters they had previously manipulated matches in the Indian Premier League and were also targeting Australia’s Twenty20 Big Bash League.

The newspaper said it had passed all the evidence to the ICC, who said they would be investigated by its Anti-Corruption Unit.

“From my initial assessment of the material, there is no evidence, either from The Sun or via our own intelligence, to suggest the current Test match has been corrupted,” Alex Marshall, ICC General Manager Anti-Corruption, said in a statement.

“At this stage of the investigation, there is no indication that any players in this Test have been in contact with the alleged fixers.

“The allegations are wide ranging and relate to various forms cricket in several countries, including T20 tournaments. We will look closely at all the information as part of our investigation.”

Cricket Australia (CA) Chief Executive James Sutherland was briefed by Marshall on the allegations in a conference call early on Thursday which also included ICC boss Dave Richardson among others.

He said Marshall had told him there was “no evidence, substance or justification” to suggest any players or officials from CA, the ECB or the ICC were under suspicion.

However, he declined to comment on whether any Australia players were named in the dossier of evidence passed to the ICC from The Sun.

“I’m sure the ECB can make their own comments, but we have absolute confidence in our players, our team officials and others involved in the game,” he told reporters outside the WACA.

The ECB said the body worked closely with the ICC and its Anti-Corruption unit to ‘protect the integrity’ of cricket.

“We are aware of these allegations and there is no suggestion that any of the England team is involved in any way,” said a spokesman.

The Sun alleged two bookmakers, including an Indian ‘Mr Big’, had offered to sell it details of rigged periods of play in the Test in Perth which could be bet on to win huge sums.

One of them claimed to have worked on the scam with former and current internationals including a World Cup-winning all-rounder. They said they liaised with a fixer in Australian cricket known as ‘The Silent Man’.

No Australia or England players were named as being involved.

The tabloid said their undercover reporters were asked for up to £140,000 ($187,000) to ‘spot fix’ markets such as the exact amount of runs scored in an over.

“Before match. I will tell you this over, this runs and then you have to put all the bets on that over,” one of the bookmakers was quoted as saying.

Asked if it was a good source, he said: “Absolutely correct information.”

The Indian pair — secretly filmed at hotels in Dubai and Delhi during the paper’s four-month investigation — claimed corrupt players would signal the fix was on by making a subtle gesture on the field, such as changing their gloves.

Spotters in the crowd then tell bookies who put millions of bets into the illegal Indian betting market.

The Indian fixers claimed they could get players to follow ‘scripts’ — such how many runs would be scored in a session, or an innings, when a wicket would fall and what a team would do if it won the toss, The Sun said.

“I will give you work in Ashes Test. Session runs. Maybe day one, two, three. We have two session work, one session costs Rs60 lakh ($69,000), two sessions Rs120 lakh ($138,000),” it cited one of the men as saying.

“If you are interested [we] will talk to the Silent Man.”

The Sun said the men also bragged to their reporters, who posed as financiers for underworld London bookies, that they could corrupt games in lucrative Twenty20 leagues such as Australia’s Big Bash and the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Cricket has been dogged by corruption cases in recent years.

In February, two Pakistan players — Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif — were caught in a spot-fixing scandal which rocked their Twenty20 league held in United Arab Emirates.

They were both banned for five years.

More recently, a probe was launched by the ICC into pitch tampering claims against a ground official ahead of the second One-day International between India and New Zealand in Pune in October.