The Pakistani cricket team ploughed on with their British tour today, dogged by accusations of match-fixing, after the man at the centre of the alleged plot was bailed by police.
Four players questioned by police over the timing of no balls bowled during the latest Test match joined their team-mates on this afternoon’s journey to Taunton where they are due to play Somerset later this week.
Cricket agent Mazhar Majeed, 35, was arrested on Saturday as officers investigated claims that reporters paid a middleman £150,000 (€182,980) in return for exact details relating to play at Lord’s.
He was bailed without charge last night but ordered to report to police at a future date, Scotland Yard said.
Majeed, who owns Croydon Athletic Football Club, was not expected to attended the team’s away fixture against Carshalton Athletic this afternoon.
Test captain Salman Butt, who was among those questioned by police, was one of the last players to board the Pakistan coach outside the team hotel in north London this afternoon.
Butt smiled as he passed a small group gathered outside the Marriott hotel in Swiss Cottage, although there were isolated shouts of abuse from at least one member of the public.
Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed yesterday confirmed that Butt along with bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif and wicket keeper Kamran Akmal had been questioned by police at the team hotel on Saturday night.
Butt, Asif and Aamer had their mobile phones confiscated by authorities as part of the investigation, he said.
“If anybody is guilty, he is guilty and should be punished,” Mr Saeed told Sky News.
He told the international cricket website Cricinfo that Majeed and his brother Azhar were agents representing a number of Pakistan players.
“When we started this tour, I told the players they should not be entertaining these two in their hotel rooms.
“These boys are their agents and, anywhere we tour in the world, we tell our players that they are not allowed to have agents in their hotel rooms. It is the policy on the tour.”
Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency – the country’s highest law enforcement agency – has sent three investigators to the UK.
Interior minister Rehman Malik said the investigators would help Scotland Yard but also investigate the allegations independently.
Undercover reporters from the News of the World, posing as Far Eastern businessmen, allegedly paid a middleman £150,000 (€182,980) and in return were told exact details relating the following day’s play.
The paper claims it was told exactly when three no balls would be bowled during the fourth Test.
It was also suggested other matches may have been fixed with reports suggesting up to 80 international Tests could form part of the police investigation.
The Sun claimed today that police in the UK were warned a month ago about alleged corruption relating to the first Test of the Pakistan tour, at Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
The claims, the latest in a string of match-fixing allegations to dog the team since the 1990s, increased pressure on the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Players and fans were united in their anger, with Lord MacLaurin, former chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, calling for any players guilty of “spot fixing” to be banned for life.
Michael Vaughan, former England cricket captain, wrote of his anger and sadness on the social networking site Twitter, adding: “It’s just a great shame why this has to happen.”
Former England fast bowler Angus Fraser told Sky News everyone who loved the game would be “absolutely appalled” by the allegations, adding: “Cricket has got to get a grip – a sport cannot afford to be surrounded by such a controversy.”
The final day of the Test was played out in a subdued atmosphere at Lord’s yesterday after the Pakistan team refused the chance to warm up and slumped to an innings defeat, losing the series 3-1.
Somerset chief executive Richard Gould said he expected the team to receive a “warm welcome” on Thursday.
Mr Gould told the Press Association: “They have a net session booked in for Wednesday and if they want anything else we will be happy to provide it.
“This game has been looked forward to by many of our supporters and members and we think they will give the Pakistan team a warm welcome.”
A statement on the Croydon Athletic FC website said the club was “both devastated and appalled to hear of the alleged match-fixing of international cricket matches by its owner Mazhar Majeed” and awaited guidance from the Ryman League.