x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fate hangs in the balance for Pakistan cricket pair

Jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif trial, the judge says he will take a majority decision if necessary.

Salman Butt, the former Pakistan cricket captain, was at court in London yesterday.
Salman Butt, the former Pakistan cricket captain, was at court in London yesterday.

The two Pakistan cricketers on trial for spot-fixing could finally discover their fate today, the 20th day of a trial that has gripped the cricket world.

The 12-person jury was sent home by the judge yesterday after they failed to reach a unanimous verdict against Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif on charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments after a third day of deliberation.

The charges stem from the Lord's Test last year when the pair, along with Mohammad Amir and the player agent Mazhar Majeed, allegedly conspired to bowl predetermined no-balls.

The jury initially retired on Thursday last week to consider a verdict and told Justice Jeremy Cooke yesterday that they had failed to reach a unanimous decision on all charges.

"If you are unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any particular one of the counts then I can take a majority decision from you, which is one on which at least 10 of you agree," Justice Cooke told the jury.

The fact that a unanimous decision was not reached on all charges could be significant.

It could suggest that the jury agreed on some of the charges with either of the two players, but could not agree on both charges for both.

But given that the judge had stressed to the jury on Thursday that a unanimous verdict was needed, the renewed flexibility to a majority verdict increases the chances of a decision today.

The allegations surfaced after Majeed was recorded during an undercover sting operation by the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, in which he claimed that the players had bowled predetermined no-balls for money on demand from him.

Majeed was secretly filmed accepting £150,000 (Dh888,950) cash from a journalist. Butt and Asif denied the charges throughout a three-week trial at London's Southwark Crown Court in which they faced intense examination and in which considerable evidence - including a heavy traffic of text messages and telephone calls between the parties involved - emerged.

Butt said he had ignored the requests from Majeed, his agent, and Asif, and said he only bowled the no-ball inadvertently at the time Majeed said it would be delivered because Butt, his captain, had told him to run faster moments before bowling.

Amir and Majeed have not appeared at the trial, though in his final summing-up remarks yesterday, Justice Cooke told the jury: "You can proceed on the basis that Majeed and Amir were involved in the spot-fixing at Lord's, as all parties agree that is the case. But don't be concerned by their absence from this trial."

Butt, Asif and Amir have already been banned from playing any form of official cricket by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after they were found guilty by a tribunal in February this year in Doha, Qatar.

Butt was banned for 10 years (with five years suspended), Amir for five years and Asif for seven (with two suspended).