Cricket News

UPDATE 2-Cricket-Pakistan's Butt and Asif convicted in spot fixing trial

* Butt and Asif convicted of conspiracy to cheat

* Jury still out on one Asif charge

* Former Pakistan captain Butt faces jail term (Adds background, details, Butt’s wife giving birth)

LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were found guilty on Tuesday of fixing part of a test match against England in a case that prosecutors said revealed rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket.

Former captain Butt, 27, and opening bowler Asif, 28, plotted to bowl deliberate no-balls at pre-arranged times during the Lord’s test in August last year.

The men will be sentenced later this week and Butt faces up to seven years in jail or a fine. They have already been banned from playing by the International Cricket Council for a minimum of five years.

The “spot fixing” scam was orchestrated by Butt and sports agent Mazhar Majeed and involved not only Asif, but fellow opening bowler Mohammad Amir, 19, London’s Southwark Crown Court was told.

During the three-week trial, the jury heard how an undercover reporter recorded Majeed, 36, boasting of how he could arrange for Pakistan players to rig games for money and how huge sums could be made for gambling syndicates.

Majeed claimed he had been carrying out match-fixing for 2-1/2 years, had seven players from Pakistan’s national side working for him, and had made “masses and masses of money”.

He told Mazher Mahmood, an undercover journalist with the now defunct News of the World newspaper, that it would cost between 50,000 pounds and 80,000 pounds to fix “brackets”, a set period of a match on which punters bet.

Rigging the outcome of a test match would cost one million pounds, Majeed told him. The agent was secretly filmed accepting 150,000 pounds ($240,000) in cash from the journalist as part of an arrangement to rig games.

Majeed promised the reporter that Asif and Amir would deliver three no-balls at specific points during the Lord’s test. The no-balls were bowled as promised, with the probability of someone predicting this by chance estimated by a cricket statistician as 1.5 million to one.

Butt and Asif denied any involvement in the plot but were convicted of conspiracy to cheat, the Press Association reported. The jurors also found Butt guilty of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments but have not yet reached a verdict on whether Asif was guilty of the same charge.

Butt, who was appointed Pakistan’s captain during last year’s tour of England, told the court the agent asked him to rig parts of crunch games at the 2010 Twenty20 World Cup and last summer’s test series, but he had ignored the requests.

Butt, who made his test debut for Pakistan in 2003 and has played 33 test matches and 78 one-day internationals, admitted he did not fulfil his duty to inform the cricketing authorities about the corrupt approach.

The guilty verdicts came on the day Butt’s wife Gul gave birth to their second son in Lahore.

“It is a day of sadness and happiness for us,” Butt’s father Zulfiqar Butt told Reuters.

“We are shocked by this verdict and will fight to the end. But at the same time God has given us a new life.”

Asif was first selected for Pakistan in 2005 and has represented his country in 23 tests and 38 one-day internationals.

($1 = 0.620 British Pounds)

Reporting by Michael Holden, Editing by Justin Palmer