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'Rampant corruption in Pakistan case'

Pakistan players took bribes to bowl deliberate no-balls during a match against England in a case that exposes "rampant corruption" at the heart of international cricket, a court heard yesterday.

Former captain Salman Butt, 26, and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, deny charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat at gambling, relating to the fourth Test at Lord's in August 2010.

A third Pakistan player, prodigal young bowler Mohammad Aamer, and Butt's British agent Mazhar Majeed have also been charged with the same offences but they are not standing trial alongside Butt and Asif in London.

"This case reveals a depressing tale of rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket, with the key players being members of the Pakistan cricket team," prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee said in his statement to Southwark Crown Court.

"It is the prosecution's case that all four men were involved -- and by the time the last Test match at Lord's took place each of them was well at it -- the two bowlers being orchestrated by their captain, and the captain's agent Majeed, to bowl three no-balls at a pre-arranged point in the game," he said.

Jafferjee added: "Their activity represents, say the Crown, a betrayal by them of their own team, their own board of cricket, and most damaging of all a betrayal of the sport -- all for greed."

Butt told British police in an interview that the timing of the no-balls exactly when Majeed told the journalist vthey would be bowled was "a series of freakish occurrences", the prosecutor said. Asif told detectives it was "just chance", he added.

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