The ECB have confirmed that two Essex county cricketers are at the centre of a police investigation, following allegations of "match irregularities". With the investigation still underway, the ECB added that they would be making no comment on the matter, but quoted a statement they had received from Essex Police:
"Following allegations received about two Essex County Cricket players involved in match irregularities we have initiated an investigation," read the statement, "and are working closely with Essex County Cricket Club and the English Cricket Board."
The Essex team was called into the dressing-room at the close of play on the opening day of their County Championship fixture against Hampshire at Chelmsford, where they were given a briefing from the county chief executive, David East. It is understood that the allegations first came to light a month ago, but Paul Grayson, the head coach, told reporters: "I am not allowed to comment on the matter."
Essex were at the centre of an investigation back in 1994, when their former seamer, Don Topley, alleged that collusion had taken place towards the end of the 1991 county season, when Essex were closing in on the Championship, and their opponents, Lancashire, were close to securing the Sunday League title.
According to Topley, Lancashire agreed to bowl badly in their three-day fixture in exchange for a quid pro quo in the one-day match that took place midway through the longer game. While Essex's subsequent win helped them to the County Championship, Lancashire's one-day victory couldn't prevent Nottinghamshire from claiming the Sunday League.
The allegations were dismissed by the ECB as being without foundation, although they did resurface again six years later in 2000.
A spokesman for Essex said there would be no official comment from the club until the investigation was concluded. Essex Police were not prepared to name the players involved at this stage, nor reveal the exact nature of the allegations.