Sydney: Australian cricket officials on Monday expressed shock at a match-fixing scandal engulfing Pakistan and said they were awaiting evidence that this year's bizarre Sydney Test was rigged by bookmakers.
Cricket Australia (CA) chief James Sutherland said the body previously had "no doubt" about January's Test against Pakistan, when Australia overcame a 206-run innings deficit to record a stirring win. But Mazhar Majeed, a property developer and players' agent, told Britain's News of the World he earned 1.3 million US dollars for rigging the match, where there were a series of dropped catches and suicidal batting by the visitors.
"CA had been in no doubt that Australia had won that game on the merit of their on-field performance and will now wait on evidence from UK and ICC investigations before making any further comment," Sutherland said.
Majeed, 35, was arrested on match-fixing charges in London and later bailed after the newspaper sting caught him being paid some 150,000 pounds (230,000 US dollars) to "spot-fix" three no-balls during the fourth Test at Lord's.
During the sting, he revealed details of the alleged Sydney plot, when Australia put on 124 for their last two wickets and Pakistan slumped to 139 all out.
"Let me tell you the last Test we did. It was the second Test against Australia in Sydney," he told an undercover reporter. "Australia had two more wickets left. They had a lead of 10 runs, yeah. And Pakistan had all their wickets remaining.
"The odds for Pakistan to lose that match, for Australia to win that match, were I think 40-1. We let them get up to 150, then everyone lost their wickets."
Concerns were raised after the Test but an International Cricket Council (ICC) probe found no evidence of wrongdoing. Sutherland called the British report "most disturbing" and said CA would await further evidence before making any more comment.
"The reports from the UK are most disturbing and we look forward to the outcome of rigorous investigation by the UK authorities as well as by the ICC," he said in a statement.
"It is critical for cricket that the public has confidence in the integrity of the outcome of games, which is why CA and other ICC members have supported the significant world cricket investment in anti-corruption over the last decade or more.
"We have no knowledge of the current allegations but by their very nature, they demonstrate the absolute importance of world cricket maintaining its vigilance in relation to anti-corruption."
Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he feared some great individual performances by his players in the Sydney Test will be "tainted" if allegations of cheating by Pakistan were proven.
"The thing that I'm most worried about if any of this is proven to be true is some of the individual performances that took place in that game," he told national radio.
"You look at Mike Hussey's second-innings hundred (134 not out) and Peter Siddle's batting (38) and the way he was with Hussey that day and Nathan Hauritz taking five wickets on the final day to win us the game. All of those individual milestones will be tainted as well."
There have been lingering suspicions over the Sydney Test as Australia recovered from 257 for eight to put on 124 runs for the last two wickets. Hussey was dropped three times by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal on his way to an unbeaten century, with the aid of some unusually defensive field placings, to leave Pakistan chasing 176 for victory.
Akmal put down a total of four catches and missed an easy run-out during the innings. Pakistan then lost their last nine wickets for 89 runs to hand Australia an unlikely victory.
The Australian newspaper said its own investigation had shown Majeed was in Sydney and visited Pakistani players in their hotel rooms during the Test, while former Australian captain Ian Chappell said he had suspicions about the game. Chappell said he had concluded that Pakistan were either "the worst cricket team" or "the best at match-fixing".