County cricketer pleads guilty to corruption charge

An English county cricketer pleaded guilty yesterday to a corruption charge linked to his bowling in a 40-over one-day game. Mervyn Westfield, 23, who played for Essex, admitted accepting or obtaining a corrupt payment to bowl in a way that would allow the scoring of runs, during a hearing at the Old Bailey in London.

Mervyn Westfield at the Old Bailey court in central London yesterday.

The court heard he had agreed to bowl his first over in a way that would let Durham score a set number of runs in the game in September 2009. Westfield will be sentenced on February 10 and was warned he will face a jail sentence.

Judge Anthony Morris told Westfield: "I hold out no promises to you as to the eventual outcome of this case. "It's open to the court in this case to pass an immediate custodial sentence."

Others parties involved
Morris added the name of the other party involved in the deal would be known to cricket fans, but it was not revealed in court. An international cricketer was arrested alongside Westfield but later released without charge.
This case took place against the backdrop of Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir being jailed in Britain last year for their role in a 'spot-fixing' scandal in a Test match against England.

Huge sums are bet on cricket matches, especially in the Indian sub-continent -- the sport's financial powerhouse but an area where gambling on cricket is generally illegal -- because of the way incidents in matches, and results, can be manipulated.

The court heard the seamer, who was released by Essex in 2010 "on cricketing grounds," agreed to bowl the first over so that 12 runs could be scored, but only 10 were achieved. Westfield conceded 60 runs from seven overs as Durham scored 276 for six, a target surpassed by Essex, who won by seven wickets with 19 balls to spare in the Pro40 game played in Chester-le-Street.

Essex Police said Westfield was the first professional cricketer in England to face prosecution for his involvement in spot-fixing in a county match. "We are pleased that Mervyn Westfield, a young professional cricketer, has now admitted the charge," said Detective Sergeant Paul Lopez of Essex Police.

Strong message
"And we hope that this sends a strong message to professional sportsmen and women around the country -- if they intend to get involved in spot-fixing, or think that match-fixing is not a crime, then they need to think again."

The England and Wales Cricket Board's anti-corruption chief Chris Watts, formerly a detective with London's Metropolitan Police, recently suggested the domestic game may be more vulnerable to malpractice because of its lower profile and  are generally earning less.

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