Bringing the Game into Disrepute

Mystics versus Erratics at Dunsford, 3rd August 2013

As part of a plea-bargain deal resulting in my continued liberty, I am required to write out this full and honest confession of the events surrounding the spot-fixing controversy at the Mystics v Erratics match of 2013. I accept that my actions brought the game into disrepute, albeit rather less than some of the cricket played.


I was first contacted by the Lahore-based betting syndicate manager Abdullah Iqbal in 1997, when he required pre-match assessments of the close-up condition of English Test match pitches and was prepared to pay me £500 for whatever I could goad Geoffrey Boycott into saying. Despite not working on Test cricket since 1999, I continued my relationship with Mr Iqbal, taking his cash and just sending him variations on a theme of grandmothers playing Colin Croft from wide of the crease with sticks of rhubarb from the other end in bad light on uncovered wickets without helmets.

Recently Mr Iqbal came across Shahid Anwar, who alerted him to a large fanbase in his own area of the Punjab who now closely follow the fortunes of Mystics and Magicians CC and who every year bet enthusiastically on the results of the matches with local bookmakers. A spot betting market had been set up for this match. Local bookmakers were however unaware of the fact that at the behest of Mr Iqbal, I had given money to various people in an attempt to fix several of the outcomes. (I had initially protested that several fixes involved the insanity of paying Mystics to underperform). I now provide a full list of the fixes attempted.

Wide In First Over. (10-1). Fix Attempt by JC Gray. Amount paid: £750. SUCCESS.

Mr Gray's unfortunate claim that this extremely wide delivery had "swung a long way" was (having seen footage of his past performances) one of the things that first alerted the authorities to the possibility of foul play.

First use of boot to stop ball - within first 5 overs. (3/1) Fix attempt by: All Mystics. Amount paid: £100. SUCCESS.

I believe the Mystics misunderstood this bribe. It was, obviously, concerning the first incidence only, but judging from the fielding effort, they seemed to think they would get paid every time they did it.

Total Score - more than 400. (10/1). Fix attempt by: Groundsman, Mr Sharland. Amount paid: £150 and some radishes. (The groundsman confessed his involvement to police, saying "it wasn't about the money".) FAIL.

Despite his finest efforts, rolling the pitch continuously from dawn up until the teams walked out to play, then during drinks, the tea interval and in the 30 seconds while Andrew Forester left the pitch to discard his helmet, the groundsman was unable to provide enough of a batsman's paradise for players of this quality to get past 200. Frightened for his life, he claimed that the early morning rain had been too severe, and that the barmaid at the Oak said she'd never seen a shower like it. (A statement whose last two words are, I believe, superfluous.)

Child A - this young person cannot be named, but he accepted £7.50 and a Dr. Who Comic to bowl a no-ball in his first over, something he transparently failed to do. When contacted by Mr Iqbal and reminded that he had broken his promise, he said "Whatever". When alerted to the fact that certain important people were very angry about this, he said "Talk to my Dad, bumface."

Child B - this young person cannot be named, but his sole condition for co-operating was that he receive a larger bribe than Child A. He received £200 to concede more than 16 runs in an over. He was seen waving the cash in Child A's face before the match, shouting "How'd you like me now, loser??" Child B achieved his task with ease in his first over (19 runs) and then bowled properly and took 1-3 in his second over, something which also triggered alarm bells at the ICC.

Professor Matravers - to be out for single figures (1/50). Amount Paid: £45. SUCCESS.

Professor Matravers is still fighting this case, claiming that rather than a bribe, he thought I was giving him cash for an advance copy of his next book, and that he replied "Absolutely" to my "Single figures?" question as he thought I was referring to the anticipated sales.

A Mystic 50 Partnership (fix attempt by A. Borley and S. Thomson - 5/2). Amount paid - £500. SUCCESS.

The named parties managed to achieve this by playing with great care and deliberation against the opening bowlers. Shouting "Kerching!" as they bumped gloves was, with hindsight, a little obvious. As was them both getting out immediately the job was done and running off to embrace their spouses and consult IKEA catalogues.

D. Shepherd dismissed in less than 12 balls (fix attempt by JC Gray - 4/6). Amount paid - £2000. SUCCESS.

This was fairly simple to achieve, Mr Gray simply walking out to umpire, appealing quietly the first time the batsman missed and raising the finger. When the batsman asked "What was that for?", he replied "Two big ones, ****head".

As a side note, it is interesting how easily public servants can be bought in the UK today. Mr Gray resigned when the scandal broke, saying "When you've got something wrong, I believe you've got to 'fess up - no point shilly shallying around. Vote Conservative." He is now Official Spokesman at the Ministry Of Justice.

Mystics To Lose In Last Over (fix attempt by Sean Webb - 50/1). Amount paid - £800. FAIL

This unlikely fix with the Mystics no.11 very nearly worked out, as the innings did indeed go into the last over. However, Mr Webb was not on strike. On ball 4, he called the other batsman for a (rather suspicious) suicidal legbye and was only not run out by the incompetence of the fielding. Ball 5 was a wide he couldn't reach, but was not given by the umpire. As the bowler ran in to deliver ball 6, the spectators could little have known that the fate of tens of millions of rupees were hanging on a convincing dismissal. Radio commentators in the Punjab, extemporising on the live mobile phone updates I was providing, were nearly hysterical as Gareth Oughton ran in to bowl the final delivery.

Alas, in attempting to deliberately play down the wrong line, Mr Webb played down the wrong line and hit it. That's why he's a no. 11.

(And also why his voice is now an octave higher than it used to be.)


Chris Healey

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