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Rediff.com  » Sports » England-Pakistan series opens with air of suspicion

England-Pakistan series opens with air of suspicion

September 05, 2010 14:42 IST

England play their first Twenty20 international on Sunday since claiming the World Cup in Barbados this year against a backdrop of suspicion and innuendo rather than celebration.

The first of seven limited overs internationals against Pakistan follows an extraordinary week in which cricket authorities have been confronted by their biggest crisis since the 2000 match-fixing scandal.

Pakistan, the 2009 Twenty20 world champions, will take the field in Cardiff without their Test captain Salman Butt and pace bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif who each face possible life bans.

The trio were charged on Thursday under the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption codes after alleged spot-fixing in the fourth and final Test against England at Lord's.

The News of the World newspaper reported on Sunday that a fourth player is being investigated by the ICC over match-rigging allegations. The ICC declined to comment.

The tabloid, which reported last Sunday that Butt, Amir and Asif had been involved in fixing incidents at Lord's, also quoted Test opener Yasir Hameed as saying some of his team mates were fixing matches.

However, Hameed subsequently denied making the allegations as he said he had never spoken to the tabloid.

"There has been a lot going on, some of it very unsavoury. No one wants that sort of news on the front or back page," said England team director Andy Flower.

"We have to see the outcome of these investigations first but obviously it's not a very healthy position we seem to find ourselves in right now. But the game will survive. It's a great, great game, people love playing it and people love watching it and that's why it will survive."

The crisis has relegated a possible suspension for the man-of-the-tournament at this year's Twenty20 World Cup to the category of minor news.

Kevin Pietersen will face an England and Wales Cricket Board disciplinary hearing for announcing his omission from both one-day squads with an intemperate outburst on Twitter. He will be replaced by Ravi Bopara.

Pakistan will be led by Shahid Afridi, whose all-round contributions were vital to his team's World Cup triumph last year, while flamboyant fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar also returns to international action.

Afridi apologised on behalf of his team on Saturday.

"I know they are not in this series, but on behalf of these boys I want to say sorry to all cricket lovers and all the cricketing nations," he said.

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