New Zealand umpires mistook no-ball motive

WELLINGTON: New Zealand umpire Tony Hill said he and colleague Billy Bowden had thought Pakistan bowlers were deliberately bowling no-balls during last month’s Test against England but didn’t suspect a betting motive.

Hill said in Thursday’s edition of Wellington’s Dominion-Post newspaper that they thought the no-balls bowled by Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif were deliberate but only a tactic to intimidate England batsman Jonathan Trott in the match at Lord’s.

Neither Hill nor Bowden suspected ” spot-fixing,” in which bettors gamble on specific incidents within a match. Hill said he and Bowden had discussed the obvious no-balls during breaks in play.
It was not until after stumps on the third day of the match that Hill and Bowden were told the News of the World newspaper had exposed an apparent betting scandal involving Aamer, Asif and captain Salman Butt. The newspaper alleged the Pakistan players bowled no-balls at specified times in the match at the behest of gamblers.

Aamer and Asif are under investigation by British police and the International Cricket Council over their possible involvement with bookmakers and participation in spot-fixing.

“We never suspected a thing,” Hill told the Dominion-Post in his first interview on the issue. “There had been the big overstep in particular and in our minds that was more a deliberate overstep to have a go at Trott, who had been batting so well.

“Billy and I chatted about that and thought it seemed deliberate, especially as it was dropped in short. But it all seemed to be one of those things that fast bowlers have been known to do to get an advantage.”

Hill umpired at the end where Asif bowled while Bowden stood at Aamer’s end, where the bowler delivered a more obvious no-ball.

“The one at my end, from Asif, was not a helluva lot over,” Hill said. “He is generally pretty accurate (with his front foot). It is the Glenn McGrath-type thing, where the foot comes down always in the same spot.

“When it alters slightly you think it is unusual but, like McGrath, or anyone when they try harder, (they) can occasionally go over.”

Hill and Bowden were called to meetings with ICC officials after the third day at which the allegations contained in the News of the World were explained.

“As the story was breaking we were being kept up to speed,” Hill said. “So rather than hitting the sack at 8:30 p.m. as you tend to before another full day’s play, we were still up at 10:30 p.m. making sure we knew what was going on and what may or may not happen the next day. We had to make sure we had our head around all the circumstances that might turn up. It was quite weird.”

England won the match early on the fourth day, and Hill said the atmosphere as the game wound up was “eerie.”

“It was very quiet out there,” he said. “Both teams were very quiet. You always expected something to be said out there but it wasn’t. They just got on with playing the game. From our point of view, it was a matter of trying to concentrate like hell, so we weren’t caught up in the moment.

“I was expecting a few verbals, but thankfully both sides concentrated on the cricket side of things. It was almost quiet.” Hill said betting allegations had soured the experience of his first Test at Lord’s.

“It was a special place but it ended up being a game that will be remembered, but not for the right reasons,” he said.