A plot to fix a forthcoming England cricket match has been exposed by an undercover investigation.
Match-fixers have been caught discussing plans to rig England's first test on their tour of Sri Lanka, scheduled to begin on November 6, the Daily Telegraph has reported in the UK.
An undercover journalist, posing as a businessman looking to place bets on the match, filmed a match fixer and the groundsman of the stadium in Galle agreeing to help alter the outcome.
The "wicket fixing" plot involves doctoring the pitch to make it virtually impossible for the contest to end in a draw. Such tactics would allow those involved to profit dishonestly from placing bets against that outcome with unsuspecting bookmakers.
Betting is a huge industry in India, despite being illegal, and the market is estimated to be worth £45 billion (NZ$87 billion). It has long been customary for pitches to be produced that favour the home team, but the claims that some are being doctored to fix matches for betting fraud will shock many in cricket.
The match-fixing allegations come from a documentary entitled Cricket's match-fixers, to be broadcast by Al Jazeera on Monday morning (NZ time).
The programme will put pressure on England to cancel their tour unless the integrity of the series can be safeguarded. The International Cricket Council, the sport's world governing body, has opened an investigation. Alex Marshall, head of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit said: "We will take the contents of the programme and any allegations it may make very seriously."
An England & Wales Cricket Board spokesman said: "ECB are aware of the planned Al Jazeera documentary, though not the full content. We endorse the ICC's position and fully support their work and investigations."
England are currently playing Pakistan at Lord's, the setting eight years ago for one of sport's biggest fixing scams, when three Pakistan players were jailed for agreeing to take bribes to bowl no-balls.
The Sri Lanka test ploy would not require any player to cheat. Instead, it would rely on ground staff producing a pitch on which the ball bounces so unpredictably the game would most likely not last the full five days, as batsmen would find it so hard to survive.
The film footage features Robin Morris, a former professional cricketer from Mumbai; Tharindu Mendis, a professional from Colombo; and Tharanga Indika, an assistant manager at Galle International Stadium. They are shown discussing doctoring pitches with an undercover reporter. Asked when the next such fix would be carried out, Morris replies: "England v Sri Lanka."
Asked if he could fix the surface so a draw would be impossible, Indika replies: "Yes, I can. I can confirm it in advance one week before."
Morris says Indika had already doctored the wicket for the most recent test played at Galle last July, between Sri Lanka and India, in which India scored 610 runs in their first innings.
Morris denies any wrongdoing, and Indika denies any involvement in pitch-fixing. Mendis did not respond to requests for comment.
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