In 2010, the cricket world was astonished by the Spot Fixing revelations by the undercover reporters from ‘News of the World’. Although 5th February 2011 was a key date but to understand the incident we have to go back to August 2010.
Pakistan were touring England. Salman Butt was the leader and along with Mohammad Yousuf, Azhar Ali, and Akmal brothers would take care of the batting. They had a strong bowling attack led by Mohammad Asif with Riaz, Ajmal, and the young talented Mohammad Amir. Amir burst into the scene in 2009 and by that time had played 13 test matches to get 45 wickets.
It was the fourth test of the series in Lord’s. Pakistan won the toss and elected to field. Most of the first day was wasted due to rain and bad light. On day two, Amir bowled a huge no-ball while bowling the first ball of the third over of the day. Amir had problems with bowling no-balls but this was over the line by such a big margin that both umpires and commentators were surprised. In total Amir bowled 4 No-balls and Asif bowled 2 in that match. England won the match easily by an innings and 225 runs.
The disturbing news started coming a few days later. On 29th August the tabloid ‘News of the World’ broke the story that the no-balls bowled by Amir and Asif were pre-planned and was under the control of captain Salman Butt. It was revealed as a result of a sting operation where their investigations editor Mazhar Mahmood got hold of Mazhar Majeed who was also the manager of Butt and some more players. They captured footage of Majeed taking bribes to ensure that the Pakistani bowlers Amir and Asif would bowl no-balls in specific points of the match. This was considered as a spot-fixing by which the bookies could ensure a huge profit by betting on that particular incident. Before the Lord’s test, Mazhar handed over 140k pounds to Majeed so that he could arrange 3 no balls from Amir and Asif on the particular point of games and Butt was also involved as being a captain he could control his bowlers and bowling changes.
Once the news was out, it created a huge controversy. The entire cricket world was rattled. UK police did a search of players’ rooms and found 2.5K and 1.5K pounds from Butt and Amir’s room. The currency notes were the same which was marked by Mazhar before handing it out to Majeed.
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Both the teams were under shock and on September 2, ICC banned the three players and started proceeding for hearing. It was a long procedure with multiple changes of venues for the hearing. The players kept mentioning their innocence but for the entire cricket world, it was a sad incident. Not only some very talented players wasted their career it all brought back the memories from the match-fixing saga from 10 years back.
Finally, on 5th February 2011, ICC announced their decision. All the players were banned; Butt for 10 years, Asif for 7 years and Amir for 5 years. Even Scotland Yard also did an independent investigation and the players were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments (Spot Fixing) and were sentenced to jail. The period for Butt was 2.5 years, for Asif 1 year and for Amir 6 months. Majeed was handed a sentence of 2 years and 8 months. After spending three months in the Portland Young Offenders Institution, Amir was released.
Amir started playing the local club cricket in Pakistan from 2015. He made a return to international cricket in January 2016 and remained an important member of the Pakistan team since then. Butt and Asif, although played domestic cricket, never get close to a return to the national team.