Sydney Test match back in the spotlight

Pakistan's January defeat to Australia came under renewed scrutiny after it emerged an agent at the centre of a 'spot-fixing' scandal met players a few weeks after the match.

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Pakistan's January Test defeat to Australia came under renewed scrutiny today after it emerged an agent at the centre of a 'spot-fixing' scandal met players a few weeks after the match. The Australian newspaper printed what it said was a photo of Mazhar Majeed, the London-based businessman who has been quizzed by police over the scandal, dining with several players at a Perth restaurant three weeks after the match.

The report comes after opening batsman Yasir Hameed claimed the Sydney Test, in which Australia recovered from almost certain defeat to record a rousing win, was fixed for illegal bookmaking syndicates. "In the Sydney Test Match they made £1.8 million (Dh10.1m)," Hameed told British newspaper the News of the World in an undercover video recording. "They gave away the match."

Hameed has since insisted that his comments were "largely inaccurately reported". Reports also said the International Cricket Council (ICC) had written to wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who put down four catches in the Sydney Test, on an unknown matter. Pakistan captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif have been suspended after the News of the World allegedly caught Majeed organising no-balls to order during last month's Lord's Test against England.

The newspaper filmed Majeed receiving £150,000 to facilitate the scam. Reports in British media at the weekend said up to £15,000 in marked bills paid in the newspaper sting had been recovered from the players' hotel rooms by investigators. Pakistan's players, meanwhile, were struggling to keep their minds on their upcoming Twenty20 match with England on Tuesday. The captain Shahid Afridi lashed out at former teammate Hameed following the player's comments to the News of the World.

"We have known him for a long time and we can expect anything from him. He has been doing these type of things a lot of times," Afridi said. Asked if Hameed was unreliable, he replied: "Yeah, the people know which type of character he is." Former England captain Geoff Boycott said it was no surprise that Pakistan were repeatedly implicated in corruption scandals, as the cricket authorities had never clamped down hard enough on past cases.

The no-nonsense Yorkshireman urged the authorities to offer teenager Aamer a plea bargain. "Tell the truth about what took place and he can get off with a lighter sentence. If he won't play ball, then make an example of him," he wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. "I feel for Aamer, because any 18-year-old is likely to get dragged along by his seniors. But I still believe that he deserves a lengthy ban - seven years, perhaps - if he is shown to have bowled no-balls to order.

"As for the others, they should be treated even more harshly, because they have no excuse." * AFP