The three balls that will shake world of cricket

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The three balls that will shake world of cricket

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THEY are the three no-balls that will be recorded in the statistics books forever – and will be remembered for shaking cricket to its core.

Millions of fans who watched Pakistan bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif send down the trio of deliveries over two days’ play at Lord’s, had no idea they were bowled as part of a match-rigging scam.

Incredibly, during live coverage, respected TV and radio pundits exclaimed to worldwide audiences how bad every one of the faked no-balls looked – little knowing they were ordered by money-grabbing fixer Mazhar Majeed, who just a day earlier had collected £150,000 from undercover News of the World reporters.


And it all played out like clockwork exactly as Majeed promised it would. He claimed the players had demanded we pay the cash as our entry ticket into an existing shady gambling syndicate based in India.

In return he revealed solid details of the three no-balls he’d planned for the Lord’s Test. . .

MAJEED: “There’s no risk, there’s no signal. . . these three are definitely happening. They’ve all been organised, okay? So, the first ball of the third over of the innings, yeah.

“Asif and Amir are going to be bowling. Amir is to bowl the first over (meaning he will also bowl the third), yeah?

“Okay? Then the tenth, the last ball. . . sixth ball of the tenth over.”

REPORTER: “The tenth over. Who’s bowling it?”

MAJEED: “Asif will be bowling it.”

Majeed then explained that the third no-ball would come in the first over that teen wonder boy Amir got to deliver to an England right-hander, after one of the opening two left-handers had been dismissed.

Just to convince us Amir was onside Majeed telephoned the young star at his hotel. “Are you sleeping f***er?” he asked crudely. Amir confirmed that’s what he was trying to do.

“Ok, sleep,” said Majeed. “We’ve spoken about everything before anyway. Ok, don’t mind. You sleep’.”

But when Amir prepared for his day’s work at the 4th Test on Thursday morning, he was certainly awake to what was expected of him.

Pakistan captain Salman Butt strolled out to meet England skipper Andrew Strauss in the middle of the ground shortly before the weather-delayed toss at 1.10pm on the opening day of the test.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to put England in to bat.

Butt had his customary huddle with his team but bizarrely did not even bother to inspect the recently uncovered wicket like his opposite number Strauss. As predicted Butt put Amir and Asif on to open the bowling.

And, as promised, on the FIRST BALL of the THIRD OVER to England opening batsman Alastair Cook Amir overstepped the white line marking his bowling crease by a huge margin.

Umpire Billy Bowden immediately raised his arm to signal the no-ball at 1.56pm.

Pakistan’s 18-year-old rising star had sealed cricket’s shame on the pitch once illuminated by legends including WG Grace, Ian Botham and Don Bradman.

But the sly player brazenly tried to hide the truth, raking the spikes of his boots across the line and asking for sawdust to be put down as he falsely blamed the no-ball on loose footing.

Bemused Sky commentator Ian Botham exclaimed: “No-ball. Because of the one-dayers, you don’t see that too often with the bowlers who play two forms of the game. They’ve got into the discipline of keeping behind that front line.”

The BBC online commentary read: “Dirty great no-ball from Amir, that was fully two feet over.”

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Seven overs later, yet more disgrace was heaped on the game, as 27-year-old Asif also overstepped the crease on the LAST BALL of the TENTH OVER. He too went through the masquerade of calling for sawdust to dry the ground.

Former England captain Mike Atherton commented: “There’s been a couple of biggish no-balls. He was over that front line by a good half-a-foot or so.”

Play was abandoned due to bad light and rain at 5.45pm so the third no-ball promised by Majeed didn’t happen.

But after play ended for the day Majeed smugly rang our reporter to brag. “You a bit more comfortable now?” he asked. “Told you. Once you showed your hand, I showed my hand, okay?”

Then he revealed how he had arranged another no-ball for the following day’s play.

“Right, it’s going to be Amir’s third over and third ball,” he said.

“It’ll be his third over, not the third over of the game.” He ended the call by reminding our man: “Boss, I’m telling you, you’re dealing with the right person, you’re not dealing with an idiot, all right?”

But on Friday morning Majeed contacted our man saying that he’d received a message from Amir.

Majeed said: “He’s briefed up. He’s just texted me now to say ‘Shall I do it or not?’ ”

And Amir DID do it – despite getting off to a sensational start, taking three quick wickets in nine balls.

Commentators described him as being “on fire” as England wickets tumbled to his pace attack. Amir managed to skittle out England batsmen Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan without any of them scoring a single run. It was only the fifth time in history the third, fourth and fifth batsmen in an order had been dismissed for ducks. During the blitz, former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding, commentating for Sky, said: “It’s been Mohammad Amir’s morning. He’s made that ball talk.”

His colleague Michael Atherton said: “Remarkable stuff this morning from Pakistan and in particular Mohammad Amir. Just 18 years of age. He’s running in from the Pavilion End. He’s like an old hand.

“He looks like he’s going to get a wicket with every ball he bowls.”

With Amir tearing through the batsmen, Majeed quickly contacted our man, warning that the promised no-ball might have to be cancelled and that we shouldn’t place big bets on it. He said the captain might tell Amir to keep up the onslaught. “So much is happening out there at the moment,” he added. Majeed was right – captain Salman Butt, who Majeed boasts is one of his players in the fixing scam – did have a quick word with Amir just before the THIRD BALL of the THIRD OVER.

Usually mid-over conversations between bowlers and captains would be about the placement of fielders and whether to make any changes.

On this occasion, no changes were made, prompting commentator Michael Holding to chip in: “A quick conference between captain and the bowler. Hasn’t resulted in the field being changed. Not yet.”

But there WAS a sudden change in Amir’s form. As promised, he bowled and again placed his foot over the crease, into the banned area – a no-ball. The umpire had a word with Amir about the surprise delivery, pointing out how far over the line his foot had been.

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On the TV replay, the side view showed he placed his foot at least eight inches past the line. It prompted bowling legend Michael Holding to exclaim: “How far over was that? Woh!”

Ian Botham added: “It’s like net bowling” – referring to when bowlers don’t try so hard when they are practising in the nets.

With his next ball Amir bowled a delivery that again caused problems for Jonathan Trott, with both commentators saying how good a ball it had been. Test Match Special listeners on BBC Radio 4 heard Jonathan Agnew and England legend Geoffrey Boycott recall how Amir had massively overstepped the crease the day before and called the delivery a “hostile ball”. Agnew explained to listeners that Amir’s boot was over the line “by a foot”.

They then discussed the possibility that Amir could have done it on purpose in a bid to deliver the quicker ball closer to the batsman.

After the disgraceful cheating by Amir, Majeed rang back and told our man: “I’m not a joker, boss, okay? So you’re confident?”

Grasping Majeed demanded yet another £10,000 payment. He said: “Try and get it to me four or five o’clock, yeah? Because I can give it to them as soon as they’re finished, then that’s done.”

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He explained how he was due to meet the team straight after close of play to accompany them to a charity dinner organised by the Pakistan Cricket Board. In an emotional interview after Friday’s play on Friday, Amir hid his secret shame and told of his pride at bagging his first five-wicket haul at Lord’s.

The young bowler, who made a big show of kneeling to kiss the hallowed turf on reaching the landmark, told Test Match Special: “These moments are for me good. At Lord’s I wanted my name on the (honours) board and I did it.”

He called the delivery that snared England’s Alistair Cook – shortly before he carried out his third bent no-ball – the “most delightful wicket.”

Ironically, the cheat said it was the best day of his career so far.

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The cheats deliver The three balls that will shake world of cricket THEY are the three no-balls that will be recorded in the statistics books forever – and will be remembered for shaking cricket to its core. Millions of fans who watched Pakistan bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif send down the trio of deliveries…

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