Match-fixing claims: ICC investigating Pakistan’s two slow overs

The investigations by the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit into a betting scam during the third one-day international between England and Pakistan at the Oval on Friday are believed to focus on a two-over segment in which surprisingly few runs were scored.

The passage of play involving the 39th and 40th overs of Pakistan’s innings appear to invite closer scrutiny.

Illegal betting in India on limited-overs games concentrates on blocks of 10 overs. The punter is invited to go above or below the number of runs which the bookmaker specifies for a 10-over sequence.

Pakistan’s 50-over innings at the Oval was shaped by the loss of early wickets: they had lost both openers before 10 runs were on the board and had to bat carefully.

After eight overs they had scored 28 for two. In the next two overs they scored only three runs — surprisingly few indeed, but they did lose a third wicket in this passage of play, when Mohammad Yousuf was unluckily given out leg before wicket to a ball that was going to pass over the stumps.

There was nothing abnormal about Pakistan’s rate of progress between the 18th and 20th overs of their innings, when they moved from 63 for three to 80 for three, just the sort of acceleration that anyone would have expected.

Between their 28th and 30th overs Pakistan moved from 112 for four to 121 for five. In other words they scored nine runs in this segment of two overs. That could not be called a surprisingly small number of runs.

The ICC’s investigation is likely to be centred on the events between the 38th and 40th overs of Pakistan’s innings. After 38 overs Pakistan were at last gaining some momentum at 179 for five.

Shahid Afridi had joined Fawad Alam and had straight-driven Graeme Swann for six to suggest an onslaught — only it never happened, certainly not in the following two overs.

In the 39th and 40th overs of their innings Pakistan scored no more than seven runs — having scored 58 off their previous eight overs, on what was widely acknowledged to be a pitch made for batting.

Michael Yardy bowled the 39th over and conceded five runs. Off his first ball, the left-handed Fawad Alam — well set on 62 — spooned a catch towards midwicket, where the fielder could not quite reach the ball with his right hand. Two runs were scored.

Off the second ball of the over, Alam played the same sort of spooning shot and hit a catch to extra cover, to be dismissed for 64.

Off the third ball Abdul Razzaq nudged a single to short fine leg. Off the fourth Afridi took a single to deep cover, and off the fifth Razzaq took another single. Afridi then hit the last ball back to Yardy. Pakistan were now 184 for six from 39 overs.

Broad’s next over, the 40th of the innings, realised two runs — and a most bizarre run-out. After Razzaq inside-edged the first ball to long leg, and returned for a second run, Afridi was run out at the non-striker’s end.

The captain made no attempt to ground his bat: he walked up to the crease with his bat in the air, and was beaten by Swann’s throw. It was only after replacing the bails that Billy Doctrove called for a television replay, but Afridi was still out.

Off the next four balls of Broad’s overs Razzaq played no attacking shots, and took a single off the last of them, to add to his single at the start of the over.

Only seven runs in those two overs, on a batting pitch, scored by some fine strikers of the ball — and as Holding had said of the batsmen’s running between wickets before the 38th over: “They’re moving well.” But not in that segment of the 39th and 40th overs.