How Westfield threw it all away
Mervyn Westfield has his place in cricket history. It was not how he might have imagined it when he first caught the attention at the Bunbury Festival, a prestigious schoolboy tournament, in 2003. Then he would have dreamed, like many alongside him, of a chance to play for England. Now he will never achieve fame, only infamy.
Back in 2003 at the Bunbury Festival at Shrewsbury School, Westfield's teammates included Adil Rashid, who was later to lead the long-awaited influx into Yorkshire cricket of players of Asian origin, and Rory Hamilton-Brown, who was entrusted with the captaincy of Surrey strikingly early in his career and has taken up the job in combative fashion.
Westfield never achieved such heights. By the time he was released by Essex at the end of the 2010 season, he was already caught up in spot-fixing allegations. But Essex's official line that he had been released "for cricketing reasons" did possess some logic. He returned to his roots and played for Wanstead in the Essex League. He was their player of the year in 2010.
He made his Essex debut, aged just 17, in 2005 and represented England U19. But, by the time his career came to an ignominious end five seasons later, he had played only seven first-class and eight List A matches. He had taken just 11 first-class wickets at 37.81. Four of those came in a career-best display against Somerset at the Southend festival when he helped to bowl Essex to a convincing victory but he was inconsistent and plagued by injury. His last first-class appearance featured a token run-out against Cambridge UCCE in June 2009. He was 21-years-old.
The match that destroyed his reputation was symptomatic of his career. By the time Durham and Essex met in the Pro40 in September 2009, neither county retained an active interest in the competition and the first hints of autumn had already reached county cricket's most northerly outpost. It was the sort of a dead match to whet the appetite of the fixers and, for Westfield, the temptation proved irresistible.
Westfield took his £6000 in return for deliberately bowling badly in his first over. He continued to bowl badly thereafter, conceding 60 runs from seven overs, bowling four wides and two no-balls. One Essex teammate confided to ESPNcricinfo that there was immediate unease in the dressing room about the validity of his spell.
But it was not as much Westfield's corruption as his naivety that brought about his downfall. Incredibly, he told a team-mate, Tony Palladino, about his winnings and Palladino, courageously pushing aside loyalty to a teammate for the greater good, followed anti-corruption guidelines issued by the England and Wales Cricket Board to all cricketers in England and reported the matter to the Essex management.
When Essex police began to investigate few had faith that they would show much interest in what many at the time regarded as a cricket-related matter. But Westfield and his Essex teammate, the Pakistan leg-spinner, Danish Kaneria, were arrested the following May. Charges were dropped against Kaneria at the end of that season. Westfield, now aged 23, was left to face a criminal trial.
His moral failure, and the successful prosecution that followed, might just be the moment when English cricket underlined its determination to fight back against the corruption brought about by illegal gambling. From Essex, there remains not a word. Sentence has yet to be passed, which may partly explain it, but as the long as the silence persists, Essex's cricket followers will not be entirely confident that the county has a coherent policy in place to avoid a repeat in the future.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo