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Cricket fix row 'a sporting matter'

Relations between Britain and Pakistan will not be damaged by the cricket-fixing row, Pakistan's High Commissioner has said.

Wajid Hasan said the claim and counter-claim around matches between the two teams was a sporting matter and the countries' relationship was "on solid ground".

But he risked further inflaming the row by saying that Pakistan's Cricket Board chairman, Ijaz Butt, had made "a very innocent argument" by relaying claims that England players might have deliberately thrown the third NatWest Series match at the Brit Oval in return for "enormous amounts of money".

That allegation sparked fury from the England camp with captain Andrew Strauss saying players had not ruled out legal action to clear their names.

Mr Hasan told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "Mr Butt made a very innocent argument. He said that it's very strange that, when Pakistan loses a match, people describe it as a spot-fixing or fixing of the match.

"When Pakistan win the match, the same allegations are levelled against it. While he was in India the bookies told him the matches are fixed in England. It's the responsibility of the ICC (International Cricket Council) to investigate allegations. This was an allegation made by a member of the ICC's board."

But he went on: "Will this row sour our relationship? My answer is certainly no. This is a separate matter. Our relationship with the UK was not made overnight. It has its roots in the past. It is on solid ground."

Of the claims against Pakistani players, he added: "I can tell you our boys are innocent. I still maintain (that) until proven guilty, they are innocent."

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson told Today he could understand the England players' reaction: "I can absolutely understand the emotion involved in all of this. They have had their integrity questioned in the most fundamental way."

He declined to call for Pakistan to be thrown out of world cricket, saying: "In terms of the wider British-Pakistan relationship, if we were seen to be playing a part in throwing them out of world cricket, that would have very serious consequences across the piece."


From Belfast Telegraph