December 18 1998

Lillee casts light on "infamous betting scandal"


PERTH, Australia, Dec 18 (AFP) - Legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee Friday published a detailed account of a controversial betting incident during a Test match in England saying he never lost any sleep over it.

In a column in The West Australian, Lillee said people still pointed the finger at him over what he called "the now infamous betting scandal" at the third Test in Headingley in 1981.

"I have never had any qualms over the matter and I have never lost a moment's sleep because of it," Lillee declared adamantly.

His comments come amid the controversy surrounding Australian stars Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, who have admitted they accepted money from an illegal Indian bookmaker to provide information about the pitch and weather in Sri Lanka during an Australian tour four years ago.

The pair were fined by the Australian Cricket Board soon after -- but the scandal had been hushed up for years -- and the board has now appointed a judge to conduct an inquiry into player conduct.

Lillee, 49, who captured 355 Test wickets, said of the July 1981 game: "I was just gazing out over Headingley when suddenly the odds relating to the result were flashed up quoting England at 500-1.

"I had never seen such ludicrous odds offered for a two-horse race and announced to everyone in the dressing room, including the manager, I was going to have a 100 quid on the rank outsider.

"Of course, they all said I was mad for thinking of throwing my money away and demanded that I put it on the bar at the end of the Test instead.

"So I just sat down and didn't do anything about it. But when the odds were still there later on with England 135-7 after being forced to follow on, and still needing 92 to make Australia bat again, I had a rethink."

He asked the bus driver Peter to put on 10 pounds sterling, which after some cold feet he did.

"Those odds quickly disappeared after Ian Botham came out swinging and clouted an amazing 149 not out to keep the Test alive.

"Nevertheless, at 1-56 in our second innings, chasing only 130 to win and go 2-0 up in the series, we were almost getting the champagne ready.

"Then suddenly Kim Hughes, Graham Yallop and Allan Border were all out for ducks and Australia were in a fair bit of pain.

"I joined Ray Bright at the fall of the eighth wicket with Australia needing 55 to win.

"We agreed to give it a real try and managed to get 35 of those runs before I was out to a brilliant catch by Mike Gatting for a third top score of 17.

"Unfortunately, Bright was out soon after for 19 and all was lost as Bob Willis finished with an incredible 8-43 off 15.1 overs.

"I naturally would have swapped the money for a win but, being a small-time punter, I had been unable to resist the juicy 500-1. It was as simple as that."