Details of plan to fix Sri Lanka-England Test revealed by al-Jazeera

Ali Martin
The Guardian
<span>The Galle International Stadium is the venue for the first Test of England’s tour to Sri Lanka in November.</span> <span>Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA</span>
The Galle International Stadium is the venue for the first Test of England’s tour to Sri Lanka in November. Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA

Sri Lanka Cricket has pledged to cooperate fully with anti-corruption officers as the sport awaits the broadcast of an investigation by al‑Jazeera that is understood to allege details of a plan to fix England’s first Test match in Galle this November.

Some footage from the documentary Cricket’s Match-Fixers, which will be televised on Sunday, has already been made public, which allegedly reveals the groundsman at Galle telling an undercover reporter he can tailor the pitch to produce a specified outcome for betting purposes. This is understood to have been alleged to have taken place before two previous Test matches in Galle, too: Sri Lanka versus India in July last year, where the tourists amassed 600 in their first innings on a pitch made to be a batting paradise, and against Australia in August 2016, when the visitors lost in two and a half days on a deliberately turning track.

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The International Cricket Council has already opened an investigation but also made public some frustration that the information shared by al‑Jazeera to date has been limited despite “repeated requests” for full disclosure before the programme is televised.

A statement from Sri Lanka Cricket said: “SLC will extend its fullest cooperation to the ICC to investigate the latest allegations levelled via media reports over ‘match fixing’. SLC wishes to state that it has zero tolerance towards corruption and will take immediate action against any person involved in the alleged incident, if found guilty.”

In the programme Robin Morris, a former Indian cricketer, is filmed telling reporters he can arrange bespoke pitches for betting purposes – his payment would be 30% of any winnings – while the stadium’s assistant manager and groundsman, Tharanga Indika, is recorded stating that he can ensure the Sri Lanka versus England Test match does not end in a draw.

Morris has since denied any wrongdoing and claimed he thought he was auditioning for an acting role in a movie “for public entertainment only”, while Indika has said he was simply being courteous to foreign tourists and is similarly not corrupt.

England’s winter tour to the island, in which they will play three Tests, five-one-day internationals and a one-off Twenty20, has already drawn the ire of the Barmy Army. The supporters’ group and travel company have accused Sri Lanka Cricket of “blatant profiteering and short-sighted greed” over proposed ticket prices for the Test series.

The company’s latest information is that while local fans will be able to buy tickets on the grass banks for £1.41 a day those travelling are to be charged just under £50 a day for seats provided they book for the entire match, with no refund policy should it finish early.

The Barmy Army website states: “This blatant profiteering and short-sighted greed does nothing to enhance Sri Lanka as a cricketing destination and ultimately we feel it is likely to do damage to the country’s reputation as a reasonably priced general tourist destination.”

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