The Press Association reported that Majeed assured the journalist, Mazher Mahmood, of the News of the World, that Butt would score no runs in his first full over at the Oval, Aug. 21 last year. -Photo by AP
LONDON: Former Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt agreed to score no runs in an over during a Test against England last year as part of a betting scam, a court in London heard on Thursday.
Prosecutors said Butt confirmed in a telephone call with his agent — a conversation recorded by an undercover journalist — that he would bat out a maiden in the third Test at the Oval in August 2010.
Butt, 26, is on trial at Southwark Crown Court with fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, on charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat at gambling. They have each pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee said Butt’s London-based agent Mazhar Majeed rang the journalist from the now-closed News of the World newspaper on August 20, after an earlier arrangement for no-balls to be bowled in exchange for #10,000 ($15,500, 11,600 euros) fell through.
A plan emerged for Butt to bat out a maiden in the first full over he faced. The journalist said he wanted proof it was deliberate, so Majeed called Butt on his other phone and put it on loudspeaker.
“You know the maiden we were doing in the first over?” Majeed said, in the recording played to the court.
“Yeah,” Butt replied. Majeed then tried to get him to do another in his third over, but Butt did not want to, it was alleged to the jury.
The following day, August 21, Majeed met the journalist, then texted Butt four times to remind him to tap the middle of the pitch after the second ball he faced as a signal that he would bat out that over.
He also told the journalist that wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and his brother, batsman Umar Akmal, bowler Wahab Riaz and batsman Imran Farhat were “his” players and the younger ones would be around “for years to come.”
But he did not specifically say that they were involved in fixing.
A no-ball is called if the bowler’s front foot lands ahead of the “popping crease”, the line at the end of the pitch from which the ball is bowled.
Young Pakistan bowler Mohammad Amir and Majeed have also been charged with the same offences but are not standing trial alongside Butt and Asif. The judge has told the jury there is “nothing sinister” in their absence.
Jafferjee said that on August 21 “matters were somewhat out of Butt’s control” at the Oval as he had come in to bat earlier than expected, faced a new ball and had to take a single run.
The journalist had pressed Majeed on why the promise he had paid for had not materialised, and the agent said he could have two ‘brackets’ for #150,000 in the next Test at Lord’s instead.
A bracket is where bets are made on incidents during a certain period of play.
“As events would prove, he got a bit of both — no-balls from Asif and Amir which could not have taken place without Butt’s complete involvement,” Jafferjee said.
The jury were shown a meeting between the News of the World journalist and Majeed at a London hotel.
Majeed said no-balls would be delivered in the first ball of the third over, bowled by Amir; the last ball of the 10th over, bowled by Asif, and the last ball of the first over bowled to a right-handed batsman.
“If you play this right, you’re going to make a lot of money, believe me.”
The video then showed the journalist with a briefcase containing #140,000 in cash which Majeed lined up on the table.
The jury were then shown video footage from the following day’s play, of the 19-year-old Aamer bowling the first ball of the third over.
“It is an enormous no-ball. No umpire in the world could fail to give that as a no-ball,” Jafferjee said.
The jury also saw the sixth ball of Asif’s 10th over being given as a no-ball, but play was stopped, preventing the next pre-arranged no-ball.
After another flurry of texts and calls, the agent called the reporter and said: “It’s going to be Amir. Third over, third ball.”
Majeed also accidentally sent a text to the journalist at 10:45 pm, intended for Amir, reading: “After you finish your current over, then three overs. Text back.”
The following day, despite the fact that Amir was in “devastating form” by taking three wickets in nine balls, the plan went ahead, and following a brief chat with Butt on the pitch, Amir bowled a no-ball.
That night the reporter contacted the police, who searched the team hotel.