Wednesday, 1 September 2010

THE PAKISTAN "SPOT-FIXING" SCANDAL - 4th Test: Lord's 2010

On day two when I was at Lord's, Mohammad Amir bowled what can only be described as a deliberate no-ball. Even my dad noticed it from the Tavern Stand, where we were sitting, and immediately thought something was wrong here. My initial thought was that Amir had bowled it deliberately so that he could gain an extra yard of pace when bowling a bouncer to the batsman. Turns out it's a bit more sinister that than, with the News of the World collecting a huge amount of evidence to suggest that the Pakistan team were indulging in a bit of "spot-fixing" where they would be paid by a certain person to ensure the outcome of a certain delivery, in this case it being a no-ball. Journalists can be cheeky little buggers at times, but this time their sneakiness has exposed an underground world of illegal match fixing that could have happened in other fixtures too. Journalists posed as illegal gamblers and paid the crook Mazhar Majeed £150,000 for the details of the precise moment when the no-balls would be bowled.  There were three of them. Botham claimed "it looked like net bowling".  Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir are still being questioned by police and face lifetime bans or possibly even imprisonment.

Disgraced: Butt, Asif and Amir face serious implications if found guilty
It begs the question, why would a young lad of 18 with all the talent in the world and the potential to become a great bowler, put his career in jeapardy for some money? Some people may call him naive but that's rubbish, if you're as talented as that, you don't risk screwing up your career for anything, even if you are an idiot. Another question. Whenever the game of cricket is brought into disrepute, why is it more often than not Pakistan who are involved? Apart from the Hanse Cronje incident with South Africa, fact is fact, Pakistan indulge in cheating far too much.

The players found guilty should be banned for life in all forms of cricket to act as a precedent. The whole team should not be banned, in my opinion, as there will be honest cricketers around who would appreciate the chance to represent their country.

Another question that needs asking is, if these players are found guilty (which seems likely they will; watch the undercover video on the News of the World website), will this Test at Lord's be deemed void?  And if that happens, will Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad's hundreds be scratched from the honours board at Lord's?  If I were Broad (and indeed Trott), I would be gutted if that were the case.

Ah well... Hopefully, this will all sort itself out, the players found guilty will get what they deserve and we can all turn our attention to a nice Ashes series against our Australian chums. Sounds like much more fun.

ENGLAND v PAKISTAN - 4th Test: Lord's 2010

Broad salutes the crowd after an extraordinary ton

One wonders where to begin with the thoughts on this Test.  I will start by writing about the game itself, completely oblivious to the scandal that ensues until a better place in this article arrives.

Putting the game into context, Pakistan, having won the third test at the Oval, had an rare opportunity to pull off an unlikely series draw against England going into the 4th Test at Lord's.  The young Asian side showed real character in the last Test to come away with a victory, especially considering they were already 2-0 down in the series.

The first day was almost a complete washout and with Andrew Strauss losing the toss and being asked to bat in overcast conditions, it certainly seemed like a bad toss to lose.  England battled through to 39-1 in 12.3 overs, but with the weather being rude, no further play was possible.  What was left of the crowd on day one rushed home to, I'm sure, claim back their 50% on their ticket price.

Day two was interesting, not least because I was there and witnessed what was probably the most enthralling day's cricket I've ever seen.  England, having lost Andrew Strauss the previous day, would have looked to be cautious against the swinging ball and indeed they were, but were a bit tentative.  It's hard to be critical of the England collapse that followed (I'll get onto that dolt, Pietersen, in a moment) because Mohammad Amir produced one of the best spells of swing bowling ever seen, one which would have caused the great Glenn McGrath to seethe with envy.  He ripped through Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood, Morgan, Prior and Swann to notch up six wickets before tea.  With exception to Pietersen who had a wild slash outside his off stump first ball and nicking it through to Akmal, the rest of the England batsmen seemed to get a jaffa each.

Australian cricket fans down under would have been rubbing their hands with glee at this point, probably thinking that it was a good time to go to bed and catch up on England's collapse in the morning papers.  I would have liked to see the look on their faces, as they spew their morning cup of tea all over the newspaper that read "TROTT AND BROAD SAVE JAMMY POMS WITH TONS APIECE",  because what followed, was the most extraordinary display of guts, determination and fight the game has ever seen.  The ever steady Trott made his way up to 149* proving that he is the natural choice for the number 3 spot with his impeccably neat technique.  I can't big up Stuart Broad enough here as showed Pietersen how to bat and finished the day on 125* - his first hundred in any form of professional cricket.  Even his old man, Chris Broad, could never manage a test century on the hallowed turf, and he was picked as a batsman. 

Day three saw Trott and Broad make it to 184 and 169 respectively and suddenly England were bowled out for a massive 446 after 139.2 overs with the English pair putting on a world record 8th wicket stand of 332.  I did wonder at this point what the bookie's odds would have been for England to make it past 440 when we were 102-7.  People simply completely forgot that Amir had taken six wickets the day before.

As it looked now that the game could teeter out for a draw, Pakistan saw fit to get themselves bowled out for 74 in 33 overs just to add a little more spice to the game.  Nobody got going.  Skipper Salman Butt top scored with 26 but failed to capitalise again and all the England bowlers chipping in with wickets.  Swann ensnared 4, Finn 3, Broad 2, and Anderson 1.  It was the third time in the series Pakistan had been bowled out for under a hundred.

Andrew Strauss would have considered the option of batting again, considering it would be the last middle practice for the batsmen before the upcoming Ashes tour but in the end he decided against it and put Pakistan in again to have a another crack at them.  It ended up paying dividends as Pakistan were four down by the end of day three with only 46 on the board.

It didn't pick up on day 4 as Pakistan were bowled out cheaply again for 147.  Umar Akmal played a blistering innings of 79* with shots all round the ground including 11 fours and 2 sixes.  Other than that, that was that and England had won by an innings and 225 runs and taken the series 3-1.  Not a bad way to end the series, onto the Ashes, you might say, but......
(Read my blog above about the scandal involved in this match)