Spot-fixing controversy January 11, 2011

Salman Butt under investigation over The Oval Test too

Pakistan's four-wicket win at The Oval against England last summer has been part of the ICC's investigation into spot-fixing allegations against three Pakistan players, it emerged on Tuesday after the Doha hearing.

The hearing, looking into allegations against Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, was widely thought to have revolved only around the final Test of that series, held at Lord's. But a statement by Michael Beloff QC, the head of the anti-corruption tribunal hearing the case, revealed that the previous Test at The Oval was also under investigation.

The very opening of Beloff's statement caught most off-guard; "The tribunal has been constituted to determine charges against Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif brought under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code in relation to two Test matches played during August 2010 in the series between Pakistan and England, The Oval Test and the Lord's Test."

But Beloff added that Amir and Asif have been acquitted of all charges relating to The Oval. One charge still stood, against Butt who was captain at the time. "The ICC has withdrawn all charges against the three players in relation to The Oval Test except for one against Mr Butt. The tribunal has formally acquitted the players in respect of the charges which have been withdrawn."

Neither the three-man tribunal nor the ICC gave details about the charges or incidents that were under investigation in the Oval Test. Until a report on the BBC yesterday, in fact, it wasn't public knowledge that The Oval Test was even under investigation.

The News Of The World, the tabloid that broke the story after an undercover sting operation, had, in fact, referred in its original report to a plan to bowl deliberate no-balls in The Oval Test which was eventually cancelled. There was another reference to a maiden over Butt was allegedly supposed to play out on one of the days. It is believed that it is the charges related to those incidents that have been under investigation.

But it is believed that, in a bid to expedite a verdict against the three players, all the charges save one around The Oval Test, were dropped by the ICC's lawyers during the hearing. The ICC was keen for the tribunal to announce verdicts against the three on Tuesday, the last day of the hearing, and believed that dropping charges, for which evidence is known to be insufficient, might achieve that.

The news is a further blow for Butt, who as captain of the side was under particular scrutiny during the hearing. He spent a day and a half answering questions first from his lawyer, then the ICC's lawyers as well as Asif's lawyer - more than either Amir or Asif. In addition, the questioning of one witness by his own lawyer is thought to have hurt his case considerably. And differences between him and Asif are thought to have further worsened his case.

The decision on the one charge against Butt relating to The Oval Test will also be announced on February 5, the date on which decisions concerning the Lord's Test against all three are expected to finally be announced.

Asif's London-based lawyers released a statement expressing his delight at having been acquitted of all charges brought against him in relation to The Oval Test.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo