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Approach to Australia player raises fears of attempt to fix the Ashes 18/08/2009
Lawrence Booth

Match-fixing has again cast its shadow over cricket after it emerged that one of the touring Australia players was approached after the second Test at Lord's in July by a man suspected of links to illegal bookmaking.

The unnamed player immediately reported the approach – which took place in the bar of the team's London hotel – to the Australian management, which alerted the International Cricket Council's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (Acsu). The matter remains under investigation, but the timing of the news – on the eve of an Ashes decider, a rare blue-riband event on cricket's congested calendar – is a blow for a sport desperate to rid itself of the match-fixing stigma yet increasingly concerned that the spread of Twenty20 has provided illegal bookmakers with fresh opportunities to snare players.

England said none of their players had been approached. They added that they would not be reviewing security arrangements in the light of Australia's report to Acsu, despite recent allegations of underground bookmakers circulating at the World Twenty20 in this country in June. Media reports from Down Under said that an approach had been made during Australia's failed campaign.

An ICC spokesman claimed the game's governing body was alert to the threat posed by the proliferation of Twenty20 tournaments. "We've got the procedures and the policies in place," the spokesman said. "We don't want to go back to the times we were at a decade or so ago, but the way this has been handled shows our Acsu player education programme is working well. The player was approached and he reported that approach straight away."

Cricket has been on alert since whispers about player corruption became fact in 2000, when allegations against Hansie Cronje and other international captains entered the public domain. Those revelations prompted the inception of Acsu. Since then, rumours of wrongdoing have continued to swirl.

A "senior source" at the ICC last week told a Sunday newspaper: "Disturbing rumours have emerged from the second IPL [Indian Premier League]. Those in charge in the ICC understand that Twenty20 cricket has the danger of going back to the bad old days. One of the most significant rumours was that a bookmaker seemed to have a surprising access to the players. The second IPL should have been covered properly, and cricket has paid a price. It was a wake-up call that the game has taken too long to respond to."

Acsu was not in operation at this year's IPL, which pleaded a lack of funds after relocating at the very last minute from India to South Africa, but the tournament's organiser, Lalit Modi, has promised measures will be in place when the competition returns to India next year. It is also understood the unit will have a presence at October's Twenty20 Champions League in India.

The ICC recently denied suggestions an illegal bookmaker had spoken to Pakistan players during their tour of Sri Lanka, but Cricinfo claimed yesterday that Acsu is "well advanced" in its investigations of approaches made to players during the World Twenty20. The idea that the bookies' tentacles may be spreading to a marquee Test series has done little to quell the suspicion that – even in an age of heightened security – the temptations on offer from cricket's underworld remain as insidious as ever.