Secret deleted text messages uncovered by police reveal that every Test match Pakistan played in England last year was targeted by the spot-fixing racket.
At least seven underworld bookies, who have not been identified by police and are still at large in Pakistan, India, Dubai and the UK, were pulling the strings of the players on the pitch through corrupt middle man, Mazhar Majeed.
Texts recovered by Scotland Yard prove the fixers had organised wickets to be thrown away by batsmen, deliberate scoring rates, and bowlers to intentionally leak runs in at least five Tests in 2010.
The messages, which were not shown to the jury, show the no balls conspiracy was “just the tip of the iceberg”, according to one detective.
The first target was the match between Australia and Pakistan at Lord’s in July last year, which was ironically played under the MCC’s Spirit of Cricket banner. Messages continued throughout the Trent Bridge, Edgbaston, Lord’s and Oval Tests against England, and some individually named the captain Salman Butt and vice captain Kamran Akmal as being in on the fixers’ plans.
Scotland Yard detectives recovered the messages by sending Majeed’s phone to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a force which has the only software in the world that can recover deleted texts. A partial recovery was made and the texts will now be passed as new evidence to the ICC.
The first was discovered on July 12, 2010 – the eve of Pakistan’s first Test at Lord’s against Australia.
It was sent from an unidentified fixer using a UK mobile number to Majeed and said: “Bro, just spoke to Sanjay. Bowling first, they should bowl in tandem first for at least first eight overs. Give away a minimum of 47 runs, in first 10 overs please.”
In the event, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif bowled in tandem until the 10th over, but conceded 29 runs.
Five days later one of the key Indian underworld bookies of the corruption racket, known as “Raj”, texted Majeed to offer his “congratulations on the captaincy of Salman Butt”. Butt’s influence as captain was crucial to the success of the racket, the court heard.
The same Indian number texted Majeed twice before the Trent Bridge Test at the end of July. The first asked for inside information on the pitch – “Got any idea of the wicket, looks like enough grass left?”
The second series of texts came during the first day of the Test, after Raj had demanded a fixed bowling “bracket”.
Majeed replied: “It is hard to do this but they will try. 2 edges gave away 8 in first over today so not always in their hands. They will make sure they try though. If they do it they will want to be paid.”
On the next day, Majeed sent another unidentified fixer on a UK mobile number a boast about a successful fix they had organised: “Boss you can see they have done it”.
He followed it with a message about Akmal, the wicketkeeper batsman.
“Kamran’s one will still be on if another wicket,” it said.
It was in this Test that Akmal was heavily criticised for dropping two catches and missing an easy stumping of England’s Paul Collingwood.
However a separate fix with the Indian bookie on the second day of Trent Bridge had clearly gone wrong.
Raj texted Majeed: “I’m very shocked and speechless about what the boys have done today. I am not able to understand what they in store. At this rate they will ruin our lives. Despite my request – one run in last ball of 100th over – nothing happened.”
Mohammad Asif had bowled the 100th over. Majeed replied: “I cannot explain boss. I’ll find out tonight.”
The final flurry of secret messages concerned the Edgbaston Test, when Majeed is in continuous contact with fixers in Dubai, India and the UK.
On the eve of the game, the agent first texts the Dubai man, saying: “Are you ready to speak in 20 mins? Maz.” Multiple calls followed.
After the first day of the Test, Majeed texted Raj to ask “shall I prepare anything tomorrow?”
The Indian bookie replied that the markets were not open.
However on the second day, Butt is named explicitly in one text from Majeed to Raj. It appeared that a fix had been set up for when Pakistan batted, however the captain’s dismissal had scuppered the plans.
Majeed texted Raj: “Bro, now Butt is out, anything we do is far too risky, let’s see the position on Day 4.”
The court heard that Majeed claimed Pakistan were also planning on match fixing – by throwing an ODI or T20 game later in the summer.
In a secretly taped recording, Majeed told an undercover reporter from the tabloid: “We’ve got one result already planned and that is coming within the next three and a half weeks.
“Pakistan will lose. It’s your responsibility to put it on [the bet] at the right times because there’s going to be times in that game when Pakistan are favourites, times when England are favourites.
“I will give you the six names of the players on our side, and you will know exactly what each player’s going to do.”
Majeed admitted that match fixing was more difficult than spot-fixing and therefore only happened occasionally – giving two examples which were not heard by the jury. He claimed that corrupt players shared spoils of £1.2 million for throwing the notorious New Year Sydney Test against Australia, and that they also threw a game against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup in June. Sri Lanka had posted a total of 242, with Amir and Asif the two most expensive bowlers. Butt was out for a third ball duck in reply as Pakistan fell 16 runs short of the chase.
Follow RDJ Edwards in court on Twitter – @Cricketer_RDJ