Match-fixing November 4, 2011

Match-fixing: where it all began

In which the clock is turned back to 1844 and a most suspicious game
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“As Butt, Asif and Amir disappeared into the unwelcoming bosom of the British prison system, the surgeon at St Cricket’s Hospital woke the corruption iceberg from its anaesthetised slumber. The tipectomy had been successful. The iceberg was released back safely into the wild, and HMS Cricket sailed on serenely for evermore.” -- From A History Of Cricket, by Gervold H Scralthouse, published 2084

Perhaps these words will one day be written. Perhaps not. I hope this will prove to be a long-overdue watershed for cricket. Until now the sport has not entirely grasped the match-fixing bull by the horns. It has, to be fair, sent the bull a few sternly worded letters asking it to please remove its horns, or at least file them down a bit so they are not quite so pointy. But the bull appears to have not opened its post. Or has been unable to read.

It is all rather depressing for anyone who loves one or more of cricket, Pakistan, Pakistan cricket, or humanity in general. Open any newspaper, history book or heavily guarded government building and you will be confronted by story after story of greed, corruption, arrogance, dishonesty and the failure of human beings to resist the lure of easy money, all of which played starring roles in the Lord’s 2010 debacle.

Look at the state of the global economy, and the unbridled avarice, short-termist recklessness and morally squalid practices that have left it lying face-down on the canvas, gasping for air and asking for its mummy; look at MPs convicted for fiddling expenses; at all manner of personal, corporate, commercial and national malpractices; at Allen Stanford and his Perspex box of pretend lucre. Sport is supposed to provide an escape from all that. But easy money is a persuasive salesman, and we now can add to that regrettable roll call of its customers the cream of third-millennium Pakistan fast-bowling.

I hope Amir has a future in cricket. I like the idea of redemption. I do not know how I would have reacted in the same situations, under those pressures, and in that dressing room. I like to think I would have had the strength to refuse. And I would probably have been more worried that my slow-medium long-hops and technical weakness with the ball against all forms and qualities of bowling might be shown up at international level. But if I had a captain, an agent, and a large wodge of banknotes all trying to persuade me to do something I thought I could probably do without compromising my ability to take 6 for 30 in 13 overs of mesmeric swing bowling, maybe I would have done it.

I hope not. I hope I would rather have taken 6 for 28, without the two no-balls. But I don’t know. Situations like that did not crop up very often in my days in the West Kent Village League, and on the UK stand-up comedy circuit, gig-fixing is mercifully far from rife. At the moment.

Anyway cricket now has to take a long, hard bath with itself and ruminate on how and why this whole miserable morality tale came to pass, and why it took a newspaper to plumb the depths of cricket’s morality (a newspaper that has now ceased to exist after not merely plumbing the depths of its own industry’s morality, but installing a fully fitted marble bathroom, complete with power shower, in those depths).

The ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (the ACSU, which I hope will soon be renamed the Anti-Corruption and Pro-Security Unit, to clear up any lingering confusion arising over its attitude to Security) would appear not to have been 100% successful to date. It may well now want to look back through cricket history to determine whether the rancid tentacles of naughtiness had wrapped themselves around other games in the past.

The best place to start might be with this game: USA v Canada in 1844, the first-ever international cricket match. It was a suspiciously low-scoring game, in which no batsman scored more than 14, and the USA, cruising to victory at 25 for 0 in pursuit of 82 to win in the fourth innings, lost all 10 wickets for 33.

Admittedly, losing all 10 wickets for 33 was not especially unusual in the mid-19th century, when men were men, moustaches were moustaches, and cricket pitches were discourteously bobbly. But the scorecard and accompanying notes reveal further details that the ACSU simply must investigate.

Four batsmen in the game are recorded as being dismissed “lbw b ?”, with ? picking up another scalp via a stumping by Canadian gloveman Phillpotts. ESPNcricinfo’s match notes highlight that: (a) Canada’s captain was not named, (b) the bowling figures do not add up in any of the four innings, (c) the runs do not tally in the USA’s first innings, (d) the Americans’ key No. 3 batsman Wheatcroft simply did not turn up at the ground on day three and therefore missed his second innings, and (e) it is not clear which of the Wilson and Thompson brothers played for Canada. Every single one of these potentially match-turning factors suggests that some shady betting syndicate was almost certainly involved. And as long as betting in India remains illegal, 1840s cricket matches will be vulnerable.

The 1846 rematch raises further questions. Aside from the in-form ? picking up another key wicket, Canada scoring 46% of their first innings runs through wides flung by the under-suspicion US bowlers (admittedly this amounted only to 13 of an underwhelming total of 28 all out), and further alarm-bell-clanging mathematical inconsistencies in the scorebook, the game was suddenly abandoned with Canada struggling at 13 for 3 in the second innings.

Apparently John Helliwell, Canada’s opening batsman, confidence rising as he advanced his score to 4 not out (needing only one more to become his team’s highest scorer in the match), skied the ball towards the bowler, the American allrounder Samuel Dudson, who was himself pumping with adrenaline after a dazzling innings of 10. Helliwell, in an outburst of unbridled North Americanism, rushed towards Dudson to try to stop him taking the catch, shoulder-charged him and clobbered him to the ground.

Dudson somehow clung on to the catch, and on recovering from being crash-tackled, chased after Helliwell and hurled the ball at him, no doubt following up with some ripe 19th-century verbals impugning the batsman’s parentage and familial virtue. The bowler was calmed down by his team-mates, who we must assume were by now stifling their giggles, and apologised. Canada, however, refused to continue playing, forfeited the match, and did not play the USA again for seven years. It was like The Oval 2006 all over again, but almost entirely different, and 162 years earlier. In fact, the only link between the two incidents was that Darrell Hair was the umpire in both.

Were the bookies involved in this bizarre moment as well? Was Helliwell acting under pressure from a pushy agent promising him a flashy pocket watch, a mahogany smoking pipe, or shiny new horse? Or, even in this cynical age, can we take his excuse – that he thought shoulder-charging fielders was still legal, as it had been in the early days of cricket ‒ at face value? Perhaps the ICC should consider bringing this spectator-friendly tactic back during the middle overs of ODIs, to spice up the excitement levels for today’s easily distracted fans. This level of violence works in rugby, American football and professional wrestling. It would work in snooker, if given the chance. And it could save ODI cricket. It is about time that skied catches became heartstopping tests of physical bravery.

Of course, some self-proclaimed “historians” might argue that these controversial matters arose only because the game happened 167 years ago, deep in the midst of barely recorded cricketing history, and was not televised, due either to a contractual dispute between the USACB and Cricket Canada over the rights, or to television not having been invented yet. But cricket has been too complacent for too long. The players’ descendants must be questioned and vigorously held to account. If international cricket began in a morass of corruption and wrongdoing, how can we trust anything we see in the game today?

And there is one man who might finally be prevailed upon to give the full story – the crash-tackle opener Helliwell himself. Because, according to no less a source than his player page on this esteemed website itself, Helliwell is alive and well and looking forward to his 189th birthday. We must not let him take his secrets to the grave.

I digress. The point is, match-fixing of any kind is naughty. Very naughty. I think we’re all agreed on that. It is slightly ironic, given the startling extent and depth of the allegations and rumours in the Qayyum Report and elsewhere concerning previous match-fixing schemozzles that the first criminal convictions were for something as relatively trivial as a few no-balls. If half of what was alleged in Qayyum’s report is true (and its findings and punishments were nebulously non-committal), there must have been several well-known cricketers yesterday, watching the three convicts gingerly tucking into their unappetising portions of fresh justice pie in London, thinking: “Phew.”

The punishments seem to me to be tough but fair – Wandsworth Prison might have been built in 1851, but as a property it is not renowned by estate agents for its charming period detail, whilst Feltham Young Offenders’ Institute was described to me by a lawyer friend who has visited several times as “a crushing vortex”. And unconfirmed reports suggest that all televisions in both institutions play nothing but unedited ball-by-ball coverage of Gary Kirsten’s 210 at Old Trafford in 1998 on an unending loop.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • There have been many players match-fixing. Unfortunately the pakistani player have been court doing on November 21, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    There have been many players match-fixing. Unfortunately the pakistani players have been caught doing it as usual. If you look into who controls the ICC you'll see why no-one else get caught.

  • Ryan on November 11, 2011, 0:45 GMT

    Should we be surprised that Gary Kirsten's 210 against England at Old Trafford was torturous to watch for England fans?

  • Mansoor on November 8, 2011, 17:12 GMT

    I have one question: what legal right did NoWT had to conduct a sting operation on pakitani players? Were they police Or a security agency? Also to treat guests like this shows the character of english press and biasness. Eventually news of the world got what they deserved...they got humiliated and closed down!!

  • Jawed on November 8, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    Brilliant article. Totally agree with you - A lot of former (and current) stars must thank god for their lucky stars (for escaping the radar) !

  • tim on November 7, 2011, 17:57 GMT

    Well, Muhammad, we all know that in 1839 (a date that was picked arbitrarily), Abner Doubleday (who had nothing to do with it) invented (the game was not invented but rather evolved) baseball. And the rest was history! It must be true. Bud Selig said so.

  • Muhammad Ehsan on November 5, 2011, 19:47 GMT

    1844.......Canada vs USA!! sounds odd...... With such a long history both these nations are almost next to nothing in cricket at international circuit

  • puneet on November 5, 2011, 17:02 GMT

    hilarious....hopefully ACSU will stop laughing and do something

  • Patrick Adams on November 5, 2011, 15:33 GMT

    Great article Andy! I was impressed by the suggestion that match fixing first hit cricket in its inaugural international contest, but not as impressed as when I first read them in my book "A History of Canadian cricket." It can be freely downloaded from www.lulu.com and readers might want to compare your comments to those made from pages 20-24. Charges of joke fixing might not be so wide of the mark!

  • Kailesh on November 5, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    @Atul Bhogle: It was 6-30 before trott and broad got their partnership going ...

  • Bala on November 5, 2011, 6:45 GMT

    Any idea, whether there are any standard rates for "Joke Fixing". I want to test Andy's resilience. And also to hit a target I never could. Two birds in shot. Rate Cards? Anyone?

  • There have been many players match-fixing. Unfortunately the pakistani player have been court doing on November 21, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    There have been many players match-fixing. Unfortunately the pakistani players have been caught doing it as usual. If you look into who controls the ICC you'll see why no-one else get caught.

  • Ryan on November 11, 2011, 0:45 GMT

    Should we be surprised that Gary Kirsten's 210 against England at Old Trafford was torturous to watch for England fans?

  • Mansoor on November 8, 2011, 17:12 GMT

    I have one question: what legal right did NoWT had to conduct a sting operation on pakitani players? Were they police Or a security agency? Also to treat guests like this shows the character of english press and biasness. Eventually news of the world got what they deserved...they got humiliated and closed down!!

  • Jawed on November 8, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    Brilliant article. Totally agree with you - A lot of former (and current) stars must thank god for their lucky stars (for escaping the radar) !

  • tim on November 7, 2011, 17:57 GMT

    Well, Muhammad, we all know that in 1839 (a date that was picked arbitrarily), Abner Doubleday (who had nothing to do with it) invented (the game was not invented but rather evolved) baseball. And the rest was history! It must be true. Bud Selig said so.

  • Muhammad Ehsan on November 5, 2011, 19:47 GMT

    1844.......Canada vs USA!! sounds odd...... With such a long history both these nations are almost next to nothing in cricket at international circuit

  • puneet on November 5, 2011, 17:02 GMT

    hilarious....hopefully ACSU will stop laughing and do something

  • Patrick Adams on November 5, 2011, 15:33 GMT

    Great article Andy! I was impressed by the suggestion that match fixing first hit cricket in its inaugural international contest, but not as impressed as when I first read them in my book "A History of Canadian cricket." It can be freely downloaded from www.lulu.com and readers might want to compare your comments to those made from pages 20-24. Charges of joke fixing might not be so wide of the mark!

  • Kailesh on November 5, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    @Atul Bhogle: It was 6-30 before trott and broad got their partnership going ...

  • Bala on November 5, 2011, 6:45 GMT

    Any idea, whether there are any standard rates for "Joke Fixing". I want to test Andy's resilience. And also to hit a target I never could. Two birds in shot. Rate Cards? Anyone?

  • Rylands Fletcher on November 5, 2011, 4:02 GMT

    @Atul Bhogle

    Incorrect. Andy means that Amir took 6 for 30 during his first 13 overs.

  • JV on November 5, 2011, 2:58 GMT

    Andy, During my stay in USA I was used to umpire in Midwest Cricket League. I was shown a ground in Saint Louis (Missori) which is obviously not a cricket ground now but as per some locals (Asians and a white) that was the ground where first ever international cricket match was played. Don't know the authenticity of that news.

  • Umair Hoodbhoy on November 5, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    1844 Canadian opener D Winckworth played for USA in 1846. And they say that spending time on Facebook is wasted time!

  • Sunny on November 4, 2011, 20:05 GMT

    Brilliant. Simply brilliant. You seem to have a teenage-girlie crush on Gary Kirsten's innings of 210. None of your write ups go without mentioning that. OMG!!! LMAO!!! simply superb.

  • Madhur Jain on November 4, 2011, 18:04 GMT

    Love u andy....... Love kirsten but cant stop admiring the kirsten speckal by you....... Keep then coming......

  • Sohel ahmed on November 4, 2011, 17:52 GMT

    Who else,than andy?Who else has this sheer ability to describe something as serious as match fixing with such sublime humour and vocabulary?I say none.I said this a long time ago and i'm saying this again,andy,you have this heavenly gift of playing with words.

  • mike17 on November 4, 2011, 16:33 GMT

    I think Kirsten's innings of 210 would break the hardest spirit long before the end of its first run through. To have it played nonstop for year would result in the most permanent and extreme personality disorder.

  • Parvez on November 4, 2011, 16:29 GMT

    Wow! Absolutely uproarious and so well affiliated with present-day mess that we all are experiencing. My heart goes out to Amir; one can only feel pity for him as surrounded by hungry wolves .

  • John Heliwell on November 4, 2011, 16:28 GMT

    Andy, Harrumph ! Just because you are on the Internet, do you believe you're safe from me and my shoulder charging ? Well you're not and i vow on benjamin franklin that i shall clobber you during your next gig. I have spent the last 11 years with 1 foot in the grave and the other on my laptop browsing through cricinfo commentaries and your barely true but tremendously entertaining articles. Beware JOHN HELIWELL's revenge. No love, John

  • Akash on November 4, 2011, 16:15 GMT

    Poor old Gary Kirsten... You're probably his biggest fan I think! You mention him in every other article of yours :D

  • Sjp on November 4, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    That was hilarious!!!! forwarding to all my friends with no cricketing knowledge!

  • Gerard on November 4, 2011, 15:30 GMT

    Brilliant Article above. I am not from Pakistan or India. Whilst I fully support Cricket should be clean, my personal view on this episode is that "It is a political game". The questions to ask is, are these the only three cricketers who has been involved? Will the same treatment/sentence be given if the accused were to be a Brit or an Indian. The answer is No,

  • david on November 4, 2011, 15:24 GMT

    Andy, in the lee of your excellent piece can I use this space to sound-off to an audience of bona fide cricket-lovers (my wife, dog and collection of Airfix Knights of the Round Table seem largely uninterested)? My view is that these three cricketers have been, in the light of the large-scale lack of serious action taken over all sorts of match-fixing in the past, not the recipients of anything resembling natural justice. Frankly it stinks that they are receiving such harsh punishment while it is apparent that others, some known to the authorities, have got off either far more lightly or even scot-free. In that context how much more advisable, and indeed humane, it would have been for the powers-that-be to have extended that leniency to these three, but then to have stated categorically that there will be utterly no more leniency whatsoever henceforth. To have drawn a line in the sand and said that from this moment on it is one-strike-and-you-are-out: An irreversable lifetime ban.

  • Michael on November 4, 2011, 15:15 GMT

    The Qayyum Report may be non-committal about match-fixing but it's pretty committal about Pakistan cricket: "Looking at the match can one say that the match was fixed? ... The performance of the team was sub-par. There were misfields and there were wides. The batting collapsed. But then again that is the Pakistan team. " Ouch!

  • Ace on November 4, 2011, 14:52 GMT

    God, this article was as epic as it typically gets with you Mr Zaltzman. Glad you're back. I do agree with your outlook on Amir on a serious note.

  • Dhimmagic on November 4, 2011, 14:48 GMT

    Andy Andy Andy..... After this article all my doubts are clear... There is no one better than you at cricinfo... Too good..... Hats off.....

  • Kosby on November 4, 2011, 14:38 GMT

    AWESOME!! simply awesome!! Hats off sir..

  • Rizwanul Haque on November 4, 2011, 14:15 GMT

    I wonder if Guinness updated their book of world records for the oldest living man Helliwell, at age 188 years and 336 days !

  • Raks on November 4, 2011, 14:10 GMT

    Loved the Helliwell age comment. how do you manage to dig this things up Andy. Its amazing. You are Guru in the usage of Statsgur.

  • Lewis on November 4, 2011, 14:09 GMT

    A cursory glance at the photograph of the 1844 match reveals some issues that would call into question more than the audience figures.

    For example, the pitch appears to feature both a tree and also a flagpole within the field of play: presumably rules were in existence similar to Canterbury, where a six is scored if the tree is hit.

    Also one of the batsmen appears to be taking his guard against a slow leg break delivery from the horse itself, running in from approximately deep point. Is this how things were done in the Colonies?

  • Faraz Saleem on November 4, 2011, 14:08 GMT

    total classic...great read!

  • Chris on November 4, 2011, 13:10 GMT

    Actually; i beleive the horse was the umpire ; not a spectator.

  • Lord Emsworth on November 4, 2011, 11:15 GMT

    Great research Andy, but going back to 1846 is a bit off. Cricket wasnt the same then... I think whats important is that Pakistan is not stigmatized after this incident. Attacks on the SL player bus that nearly cost the lives of the SL team was bad enough and most Pakistanis would love to put this all behind but Butt & co. spoilt it all again... As with you, the cricket world is sympathic with Amir the teenage fast bowler who was naive, uneducated and easily led astray. Pity that the English judge in the case didnt offer Amir any clemency....I know many would have.

  • Asim on November 4, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    You are genius sir.

  • Mihir Mehta on November 4, 2011, 10:25 GMT

    Not to miss the Gary Kirsten punch.. :D Lol... It works always.. :)

  • Shankar on November 4, 2011, 10:23 GMT

    The funniest scorecards I have seen in a while. Hats off to Zaltzman for digging up these nuggets and managing to slip in a Kirsten joke as well.

  • Mihir Mehta on November 4, 2011, 10:23 GMT

    Brilliant article, Andy. Certainly, one of your best !! The effort you have put in this one shows... Keep them coming... :)

  • Sanjay on November 4, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    The neurons start emitting static, the hair, wherever it has found a patch on pate to thrive upon, stands on end, grey cells start fizzing about the brain in a Brownian frenzy and lo and behold, another Zaltzman masterpiece emerges!

  • Opener on November 4, 2011, 9:52 GMT

    Zaltzmanned!

    Vijay: Tell me you're not serious about the player profile in question.

  • Vishal on November 4, 2011, 9:29 GMT

    Nice Article Andy ! Welcome back :)

  • Joseph on November 4, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    Haha. But seriously, you have to stop using Gary Kirsten's innings. Any of them.

  • Dave S on November 4, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    When I saw "Zaltzmann" amongst the match fixing links I was a little worried having been thoroughly entertained my Andy's previous work and wondered whether a good old Zaltzmanning was appropriate treatment for this series of events. Andy - you have dealt with this wonderfully. Treating a sad event with humour has long been said to be part of the recovery process and you have nailed this. Excellent stuff.

  • Vijay on November 4, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    Misses your biting humor by a huge margin but good, nevertheless.

    "And there is one man who might finally be prevailed upon to give the full story – the crash-tackle opener Helliwell himself. Because, according to no less a source than his player page on this esteemed website itself, Helliwell is alive and well and looking forward to his 189th birthday. We must not let him take his secrets to the grave." -- Is this a genuine mistake or you asked for this player detail to be created?

  • danny on November 4, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    Helloooooo

  • Atul Bhogle on November 4, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    Err... it was 6 for 84, Andy (courtesy the link in this article) :)

  • Shayan Abbasi on November 4, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    I knew ijaz butt was wrong when he accused the english players, it was actually the canadians!!

  • Andrew Simoes on November 4, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    Andy, I salute thee.

  • Alan on November 4, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    I could handle it right until the end, but having to watching Gary Kirsten's torture of Old Trafford I think the death penalty would be more humane

  • Gulu on November 4, 2011, 7:31 GMT

    The last line about Kirsten is both funny and cruel!

  • eddie on November 4, 2011, 6:37 GMT

    bahahaha this is gold! top work andy!

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  • eddie on November 4, 2011, 6:37 GMT

    bahahaha this is gold! top work andy!

  • Gulu on November 4, 2011, 7:31 GMT

    The last line about Kirsten is both funny and cruel!

  • Alan on November 4, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    I could handle it right until the end, but having to watching Gary Kirsten's torture of Old Trafford I think the death penalty would be more humane

  • Andrew Simoes on November 4, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    Andy, I salute thee.

  • Shayan Abbasi on November 4, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    I knew ijaz butt was wrong when he accused the english players, it was actually the canadians!!

  • Atul Bhogle on November 4, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    Err... it was 6 for 84, Andy (courtesy the link in this article) :)

  • danny on November 4, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    Helloooooo

  • Vijay on November 4, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    Misses your biting humor by a huge margin but good, nevertheless.

    "And there is one man who might finally be prevailed upon to give the full story – the crash-tackle opener Helliwell himself. Because, according to no less a source than his player page on this esteemed website itself, Helliwell is alive and well and looking forward to his 189th birthday. We must not let him take his secrets to the grave." -- Is this a genuine mistake or you asked for this player detail to be created?

  • Dave S on November 4, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    When I saw "Zaltzmann" amongst the match fixing links I was a little worried having been thoroughly entertained my Andy's previous work and wondered whether a good old Zaltzmanning was appropriate treatment for this series of events. Andy - you have dealt with this wonderfully. Treating a sad event with humour has long been said to be part of the recovery process and you have nailed this. Excellent stuff.

  • Joseph on November 4, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    Haha. But seriously, you have to stop using Gary Kirsten's innings. Any of them.