Spot-fixing controversy October 25, 2011

Butt not complicit to no-balls - lawyer

Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court

The lawyer of former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt told a jury on Tuesday that his client did not need to be in on the fix for pre-determined no-balls to have been delivered in the Lord's Test last year.

In continuing his closing speech on the 15th morning of the alleged spot-fixing trial at Southwark Crown Court, Ali Bajwa QC suggested that teenage fast bowler Mohammad Amir had been heavily involved in the fixing and possibly Mohammad Asif was also - though not Butt.

Bajwa attempted to shoot down the prosecution's allegations that for the infamous fix of three no-balls to have occurred either a crystal ball was needed or that captain Butt had to have orchestrated the cheating, knowing which bowler would be on and when.

It was "just part of Majeed's embellishment to the (undercover) journalist to say 'the captain is involved'," Bajwa told the jury, in his efforts to distance his client from the fixing.

The lawyer presented evidence to the jury that showed Asif had bowled the tenth over in all the first innings in the previous five Tests on the tour up to that point so Bajwa suggested that Majeed only had to do his research on the bowling order patterns.

The lawyer also told of how, even if there was a bowling change, because of live betting trends, bets could be staked (or not) up until ten seconds of an actual event occurring, in this case the start of an over. He cited a comment from prosecution witness Ravi Sawani, a prominent anti-corruption officer who works for the ICC.

Bajwa, as he has alluded to in previous presentations to the court, again implicated Amir strongly to the fix and suggested Asif may also have been part of it. The fixed no-balls were the first ball of the third over by Amir, the sixth ball of the tenth over by Asif and, next day after a rain curtailment, the third ball of Amir's third full over.

"Of course Majeed could say that Asif would bowl the tenth over," Bajwa said. "Since he knows that, it is for him and Asif to arrange the no-ball. That's for Asif to explain, not Salman Butt. If Asif was involved with Majeed with regards to that tenth over, if Butt was going to replace him Asif would only have to say 'Please give me one more captain'.

He added: "The prosecution say that there was no way the no-balls at Lord's could have happened without Butt being in on it. We disagree…To say Salman Butt had some influence over Amir is far from the truth. It is possible that Majeed set up the no-balls directly with Amir…This isn't some naïve and holy innocent teenager. We have seen his messages to a Pakistani number (discussing fixing)."

Bajwa went on: "The prosecution doesn't want the truth to get in the way of a jolly good theory but you have to go on evidence, not suspicion. Guess work cannot play a part in your deliberations."

Bajwa also labelled Asif's primary excuse for bowling the no-ball "ludicrous". Asif told the court he was pressured before the delivery because his captain had told him, "run faster f*****, have you slept".

Bajwa explained that of the 8,849 calls and text messages in the evidence bundle handed to the jury, the prosecution have only picked up on three potentially incriminating calls and two texts, which they sought to answer. Most of the those corresponded to conversations over the batting out of a maiden at The Oval Test which did not happen in the event. Bajwa argued that Butt was then just "fobbing Majeed off".

Butt and swing bowler 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 agent Mazhar Majeed, Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-planned no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

The case continues.