Praise for Aussies after Ashes betting allegations

CRICKET chiefs are confident the Ashes series has not been affected by corruption despite a serious betting allegation ahead of tomorrow’s crunch final Test.

The sport’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), has confirmed it has received a report from the Australia team making a claim of suspicious bookmaking activity during the current Ashes series.

Reports this week suggested an Australian player was approached by a man suspected to be linked to illegal bookmaking at the team’s hotel, following their defeat by England in the second Test at Lord’s last month.

An ICC statement read: “There is no evidence of any illegal activity as a result of this approach, which took place following the second Test at Lord’s in July, and the ICC would like to place on record its praise for the player approached and the Australia team management for reporting the issue.”

England take on Australia at The Oval in the decisive final Test which starts tomorrow. And the ICC insists the clash should not be marred by suggestions of corruption, something cricket has taken a while to prove itself to be clean from.

England captain Andrew Strauss admits he is surprised at the news.

“It does surprise me,” he said. “The anti-corruption unit are doing a great job. They seem to have been on top of things for the last five or six years or so. So it is a surprise that it’s reared its head again.”

Australia captain Ricky Ponting refused to be drawn on the reports, insisting it was now a matter for the relevant authorities and that his side “have other things to worry about”.

Meanwhile, Qasim Sheikh completed his second first-class century but Regan West ensured Scotland were no longer in control of their ICC Intercontinental Cup clash with Ireland after day two in Aberdeen.

The hosts had ended the opening day of the four-day clash on top after bowling the three-time defending champions out for 202 yesterday.

But just as their opponents had done in their first innings, Scotland collapsed from a promising position yesterday to 208 all out at the Citylets Mannofield.

Ireland then reached 102 for three in their second innings, a lead of 96, with captain William Porterfield unbeaten on 52.

They now hold a slender advantage in what has been a topsy-turvy match.

That is largely thanks to left-arm spinner West, who claimed seven for 88, by far the best return of his career. Only Sheikh was able to resist him, finishing 100 not out. The batsman started the day on 30 alongside Ryan Watson, who added only seven to his overnight score before he was bowled by West for 29.

Scotland then slumped from 108 for three, with West removing Neil McCallum, Richie Berrington, Majid Haq, Gordon Drummond and Alasdair Evans.

The pitch has proven a spinner’s paradise, with Haq claiming his maiden five-wicket haul at Ireland’s expense.

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