Spot-fixing controversy October 20, 2011

Asif blames Butt's swearing for his no-ball

Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court

Mohammad Asif attributed his infamous no-ball in last year's Lord's Test to the abuse he received in the over from his captain Salman Butt, a court heard in London on Thursday.

Butt's lawyer Ali Bajwa QC hit back at those claims, though, by counter-accusing Asif of fabricating his story to justify the no-ball. In fact the 90-minute exchange between Asif and Bajwa sometimes brought laughter from the court as Asif stuck to his story against Bajwa's grilling. Asif, speaking in broken English, often required the services of his Urdu interpreter.

Asif was appearing in the witness stand for the first time on the 12th day of the alleged spot-fixing trial, and his lawyer Alexander Milne QC followed an introduction of his career with the nitty-gritty moment about the no-balls in question.

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

When discussing the tenth over at Lord's in which Asif's one questionable no-ball was delivered, on the sixth ball of the over, Milne asked his client if anything was said to him during this over. He responded by revealing how captain Butt had abused him when moving into a "suspicious" short, straight mid-off position.

"He said run faster f*****, and went on to say something like 'haven't you slept'? Somebody kept shouting. I think Butt was saying things; that made me lose concentration."

Milne replied to that answer by asking Asif whether Butt's comment was said in a funny way, pointing out that swear words can sometimes be used in a humorous, friendly way.

"No, it wasn't friendly," Asif said. "It was unfriendly for a captain to speak like that to me, especially with my position in the rankings." Asif went on: "I thought to myself that I had slept well last night so why is he saying these things. He was desperate for wickets but so was I."

Bajwa quizzed Asif on why he did not give this explanation in his initial police interview last year, when he told police officers that he had not been put under any pressure to bowl the no-ball.

"I'm going to suggest to you that Mr Butt never referred to you as a f***** at that time or any other time," Bajwa said. "Why didn't you say at this point (in your police interview) that 'my captain was putting me under pressure and that's why I bowled the no-ball'."

Bajwa, who also accused Asif of "untruthfully downplaying" his relationship with the Majeed brothers, further said of Asif's no-ball excuse: "That, Mr Asif, is a desperate invention by you because you fear that the jury won't accept your story for bowling a no-ball."

Asif pointed out, referring back to his police interview, that he meant he was not pressured into bowling an intentional no-ball as opposed to the circumstances leading up to what he regards as an accidental no-ball.

Bajwa, using a replay of the over, pointed out that Asif checked his spikes and had sawdust scattered on the crease afterwards and if he was blaming his captain he would have reacted differently by "glaring" at Butt and telling him how he felt.

During the morning's proceedings Milne also established through his answers from his client that Asif had minimal contact with Majeed. In fact although his older brother Azhar Majeed acted as his unsigned agent from 2006, bringing him two unpaid assignments in that time, he did not even meet Mazhar until May 2010 during the Twenty20 World Cup in West Indies.

Asif told how Majeed frequently contacted him to sign a contract with his management company and would promise him sponsorship agreements with companies like GM (Gunn & Moore). Asif said he tolerated him because "GM was a big brand". Apart from those conversations Asif also told of how he frequently rejected offers either from Butt or Majeed to go to dinners with them, as he preferred to dine with friends from outside of the team.

Asif also denied ever having any knowledge of taking any money for the no-balls or even having any knowledge that other people had "an interest" in his bowling a no-ball.

The fast bowler also claimed that News of the World journalist Mazhar Mahmood met him on two separate occasions after scandal broke, even though Mahmood denied any such meeting during the presentation of his evidence. Asif claimed that Mahmood introduced himself as solicitor Imran Sheikh, offering to help him and asking him many questions about the scandal.

The defendant said that Sheikh later met up with him in Lahore and tried again to probe him for more answers of the scandal.

The case continues.