Spot-fixing controversy October 18, 2011

Butt denies knowledge of no-ball plans

Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court

Former Pakistan skipper Salman Butt told a jury at the alleged spot-fixing trial on Tuesday that he had no knowledge of any discussions to arrange pre-determined no-balls at the Lord's Test last year.

His lawyer, Ali Bajwa QC, quizzed him on the build-up to the now-tainted game last August and also on what happened during the match when three no-balls were delivered at exactly the time when agent Mazhar Majeed had predicted to an undercover News of the World journalist.

Bajwa asked Butt whether he was aware of the conversation between Majeed and the journalist at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in London that three no-balls were to be bowled at specific times. "Not at all," Butt replied.

Bajwa then continually asked questions of his client while the court was again shown video of the no-balls, which were delivered by Mohammad Amir on the first ball of the third over, by Mohammad Asif on the sixth ball of the tenth over and on the second day, after rain curtailed play early on day one, by Amir off his third ball of his third full over.

After Amir's first no-ball was shown, Butt was asked about what the prosecution described as the "performance" that saw Amir then check his spikes and looking repeatedly at the crease, as Butt came across and sprinkled sawdust on the crease. Bajwa also allowed Butt the opportunity to explain why he was fielding at mid-off as it is where "most captains field" and where he had been in previous games.

Bajwa even picked up on the little endorsement sticker shown on the back of England batsman Alastair Cook's bat, as the jury has been told about the money Butt earned from Majeed for such a sticker on his bat. Equally, Bajwa noted how many opportunities Butt had to speak to his bowlers during the fall of wickets when England crashed to 47 for 5, alluding to the fact that if he was fixing why would he need to do it just before he was about to bowl a ball.

Butt and Amir did in fact come together for a discussion directly before the third no-ball was bowled. "What had happened to cause the conversation before Amir's second no-ball?" Bajwa asked his client. "(Jonathan) Trott was stepping forward at him so Amir wanted to bowl short at him. It was an intention to push him back even if it hits him. It would take a lot of guts to still come forward after that," Butt explained. "We wanted to push him back because it would give us a better chance of getting him out. I asked Amir if he wanted a short leg but Amir told me he didn't because he didn't want Trott to know what was coming'

Bajwa also asked Butt whether there was any "further" conversations between him and Majeed on the evening after the first two no-balls had been bowled. And Butt, quick to notice the phrasing of the question replied: "There was no previous so how can there be further (discussions)."

Butt and Asif are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following the Lord's Test in August last year when they allegedly conspired with Majeed, teenage fast bowler Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-planned no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

The case continues.