London: Former Essex cricketer Mervyn Westfield has been charged with conspiracy to defraud over claims he deliberately played poorly, England's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Thursday.
Westfield is alleged to have dishonestly agreed to bowl his first over in a 40-over match between Durham and Essex on September 5, 2009 in such a way as to allow a certain number of runs to be scored.
He is now due to appear at the City of London Magistrates' Court a week on Thursday (September 23). Westfield was originally arrested in May at the same time as Pakistan and Essex leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.
But the 29-year-old Kaneria was released without charge by police on September 8 and told he would face no further action. Westfield, 22, of Chelmsford, Essex, east of London, was charged on Thursday morning at Rayleigh police station in Essex and has been released on bail.
Antony Swift of the CPS said in a statement on Thursday: "I have advised that Mervyn Westfield should be charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud for intentionally playing other than to the best of his ability, contrary to his contractual obligations.
"It is alleged that he dishonestly agreed to bowl his first over to allow the scoring of a certain number of runs at a match between Durham and Essex on September 5, 2009. I have made this decision after careful consideration of a file of evidence from Essex Police. There is sufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Westfield and it is in the public interest to do so."
Westfield is accused of conspiring to defraud the club's members, his team-mates and spectators at the match. The offence, under the Criminal Justice Act 1987, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Police were looking into allegations Westfield was involved in the manipulation of 'spot-betting', where gamblers bet on specific incidents happening in a match. In the match in question, Westfield conceded 60 runs in seven overs, with four wides and two no-balls. It was screened live globally on Sky TV.
Westfield made his first-class debut for Essex against Derbyshire in 2005 but his career was blighted by injury and he was released by Essex in August. Similar 'spot-fixing' allegations , made by a British newspaper, concerning the deliberate bowling of no-balls as part of a betting scam during last month's fourth Test at Lord's led the International Cricket Council (ICC) to suspend Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.
The trio have all since been questioned by Scotland Yard detectives under caution while businessman Mazhar Majeed has been accused of accepting 150,000 pounds to organise the alleged 'fix'. Butt, Amir and Asif, who have all since flown back to Pakistan although they could yet be recalled to Britain, all deny any wrongdoing.
Pakistan fast bowler Wahab Riaz, who remains with the squad, was also questioned by police under caution on Tuesday. Kaneria played in the first Test against England at Trent Bridge but was dropped from the Pakistan squad and released back to Essex after taking just one wicket for 171 runs in a crushing 354-run defeat.
Pakistan lost the four-match Test series 3-1. England have since beaten Pakistan 2-0 in a two-match Twenty20 series and lead the ongoing five-match one-day international campaign between the two countries 2-0 ahead of the third ODI at The Oval, in south London, on Friday.