ECB ponder legal action after Butt claims

THE England and Wales Cricket board have threatened Ijaz Butt with legal action after he claimed that English players received “huge amounts of money” to lose the third one-day international against Pakistan.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Butt told Indian broadcaster NDTV that he had heard information from bookmakers that England had taken bribes to lose at the Oval three days ago.

The claims brought strong condemnation from England skipper Andrew Strauss, who described his “dismay and outrage” at Butt’s comments in a strongly-worded statement issued shortly before the fourth ODI began at Lord’s yesterday, which Pakistan won.

Last night England lost to Pakistan by 38 runs in the fourth NatWest Series one-day international at Lord’s.

The five-match series is now level at 2-2, meaning it goes to a decider at the Rose Bowl tomorrow.

ECB chief executive David Collier met with senior figures within the ECB before agreeing to take part in yesterday’s match.

He admitted that the players had endured a “very difficult” 24 hours and conceded that legal action against Butt is an option. “Clearly we will seek advice on that but there are quite strong laws of defamation,” Collier told Test Match Special.

“You can’t impugn someone’s integrity without having proper evidence.

“To date I can say that we have received zero evidence of anything having influenced any England player.”

The episode is the latest story to emanate from a summer of controversy which has seen four players questioned by police over spot-fixing.

Three of them, Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, have been suspended by the International Cricket Council but deny any wrongdoing.

The fourth, seamer Wahab Riaz, is still available for selection for the NatWest series, which ends at the Rose Bowl tomorrow.

England’s players were so astounded by the accusations levelled at them that they considered refusing to play today.

Strauss, who admitted earlier this week that he could not wait for Pakistan’s tour to end, said on behalf of the team: “We would like to express our surprise, dismay and outrage at the comments made by Mr Butt yesterday.

“We are deeply concerned and disappointed that our integrity as cricketers has been brought into question.

“We refute these allegations completely and will be working closely with the ECB to explore all legal options open to us.”

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