International cricket was rocked by a match-fixing scandal on Sunday with as many as seven top Pakistani players, including captain Salman Butt, being under the scanner for their role in 'spot-fixing' in the ongoing fourth Test against England at Lord's.
In a dramatic development Scotland Yard detectives visited the Pakistan dressing room immediately after the third day's play to question the players after a British tabloid's sting operation exposed the alleged nexus between players and the bookies.
"Scotland Yard detectives had visited the team hotel where they had taken statements of captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Aamir, and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal," Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed said.
The News of the World tabloid alleged that a Pakistani man Mazhar Majeed, who is now under arrest, had paid bribes to the players to bowl no-balls and wides in the series and the Lord's Test.
The tabloid claims it has video evidence confirming involvement of seven players which it had shared with Scotland Yard, triggering off the investigation into the spot-fixing racket.
The International Cricket Council said it was aware of all the developments and made it clear that the fourth day's play of the ongoing Test will continue as scheduled.
"No players nor team officials have been arrested in relation to this incident and the fourth Test match will continue as scheduled on Sunday.
"As this is now subject to a police investigation neither ICC, ECB, PCB nor the ground authority, the MCC, will make any further comment," an ICC statement said.
Yawar said that the investigators also talked to him but denied that they raided the rooms of the players and recovered money and seized their laptops and phones.
"The police have also spoken to me and we are trying to cooperate with them in every way possible and we are giving them what information they want," Yawar said.
But sources said the Scotland Yard detectives gathered some evidence from the hotel after raiding the player's room.
Geo Television has also reported that Scotland Yard have visited the Pakistan team hotel and inspected players rooms and the police is said to have recovered large amounts of money from rooms of some players and also seized their mobile phones.
Confirming that he had contacted the Pakistan High Commission in London for assistance, Yawar said, "The High Commissioner is also in touch with the Scotland Yard in this issue. We are cooperating with them."
Besides Majeed, an accomplice of his has also been picked up by the police for questioning. Majeed, 35, was arrested late last night after the tabloid handed over details of its sting operation to the Scotland Yard.
The bookie claims to have paid some players in excess of
150,000 pounds to fix the Test match.
"The police have carried out preliminary questioning of some players. Majeed is an old associate and friend of many Pakistani players and is settled in London. He has been seen regularly with the players on the tour," one source said.
"The sad part for the Pakistan cricket is that several leading players are said to be involved in this new scandal which could cause untold damage to Pakistan cricket," he said.
Pakistani TV channels reported that the players had been sounded off about the inquiry when the third day's play ended.
"That is why the players left early for the hotel without anyone attending the mandatory post-play press conference," a source said.
Pakistan had reduced England to 47 for five and then 102 for seven on second day at Lord's but Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad scored centuries to share a record eighth-wicket partnership of 332 runs.
The two Pakistanis who bowled no-balls allegedly on directions from Majeed were Asif and Aamir. Both bowlers delivered three no-balls on Thursday and Friday.
The two bowlers delivered the no-balls "at precisely the moments promised to our reporter," the tabloid said.
"Our undercover team was posing as front men for a Far East gambling cartel. In return for their suitcase of money Majeed then calmly detailed what would happen -- and when on the field of play next day, as a taster of all the lucrative information he could supply in future," it reported.
Pakistan were bowled out for 74 on Saturday and made to follow-on. They were then reduced to 46 for four at stumps, facing certain defeat and a big series loss.
While match-fixing is fixing the result of the whole match, spot-fixing is fixing events within a match, on ball-by-ball basis.
The names of Pakistani players cropped up in match-fixing earlier this year as well.
After the tour of Australia, former Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam and assistant coach Aaqib Javed (who is still with the team) had expressed suspicions about Kamran's involvement with bookies after assessing his performance in the Sydney Test.
Meanwhile, Iqbal Muhammad Ali who heads the National Assembly Standing Committee on Sports blamed the PCB and its chairman Ijaz Butt for the humiliation Pakistan cricket is facing.
"We and the Senate sports committee had warned that if some players were suspected of having ties with bookies they should be dropped from the team and disciplined.
"But no one paid heed. If these players are now guilty we want to see them behind the bars because this conduct is unacceptable," Ali said.