The world of cricket was left reeling today following allegations of a betting scam focused on the current England and Pakistan Test match.
A 35-year-old man was arrested and members of the Pakistani team were talked to by police at their north London hotel over claims about the Lord’s Test.
The arrest came after the News of the World said it was able to buy its way into a match-fixing ring by posing as Far Eastern businessmen.
The brother and business partner of the man arrested said today that the allegations were “just rubbish”.
Azhar Majeed confirmed to media that his brother Mazhar Majeed was the man arrested by police in relation to the News of the World’s sting.
He said the claims were “laughable”, adding: “I thought it was just rubbish.”
In video footage released by the News of the World, Mazhar Majeed is apparently seen with a pile of money in front of him.
Speaking about his brother’s arrest, Azhar Majeed said: “I’m extremely worried. Nothing like this has ever happened to us. Ever...I have no idea as to what happened and what’s led to him counting out that money.”
Despite the police probe, the fourth Test match in the series – in which England have a commanding lead – will resume today, the sport’s governing board said.
In a joint statement, the International Cricket Council (ICC), the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said: “No players nor team officials have been arrested in relation to this incident and the fourth npower Test match will continue as scheduled on Sunday.”
The statement added that all three bodies were assisting police with their inquiries and would make no further comment.
The allegations centre on the timing of no balls delivered during the Lord’s Test match.
Undercover reporters from the paper allegedly paid a middleman £150,000 (€183,000) and in return were told exact details relating to play during the following day.
Last night, the manager of Pakistan’s cricket team confirmed that British police were questioning players over the allegations.
Yawar Saeed said: “I can confirm that we are aware of the allegations and Scotland Yard police are with us now at the hotel and we are helping them with their inquiries.”
A source close to the team management last night appeared confident that there was no substance in the claims.“I’m confident it is bulls**t,” the source said.
The players refused to answer questions from reporters as they emerged from the Marriott Hotel, in Swiss Cottage, north-west London today.
Watched by several security guards, the team, in green tracksuits, boarded a coach to the cricket ground at 9.50am.
Police were understood to have spoken to the players at the hotel overnight.
Scotland Yard said it arrested a man in relation to the newspaper’s investigation.
A force spokesman said: “Following information received from the News of the World we have today (Saturday August 28) arrested a 35-year-old man on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers.”
The News of the World reporting team claims it was told exactly when three no balls would be bowled during the current Test.
The Pakistani side has been dogged by match fixing scandals and allegations of cheating since the 1990s.
Four years ago, the team were accused of ball tampering during a tour to England.
Australian umpire Darrell Hair ruled that Pakistan had forfeited the Test at London’s Oval by refusing to take the field in a protest over his ball-tampering ruling.
In May this year the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit looked at the team’s poor performance after being heavily beaten by Australia during a tour of the country.
Following reports of infighting in the team, the Pakistani Cricket Board banned former captain Younus Khan and tour captain Mohammad Yousuf for an indefinite period.
Former captain Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan were banned for one year and fined heavily.
Last year a committee of Pakistan’s parliament summoned senior figures from the team to discuss allegations that they deliberately lost a Champions Trophy match to prevent India from reaching the semi-finals.
In addition, security fears in the sub-continent saw international teams refuse to play in Pakistan.
Repeated incidents of terrorism including an attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team resulted in the Pakistan team playing all their games overseas.
England look close to an innings victory as they return to the field today after taking 14 Pakistan wickets yesterday.
They are heading for a 3-1 victory in the four-match Test series which now looks set to be overshadowed by events off the field.