Recalling the events of the spot-fixing Test of August 2010 now, the memory is sharp: I was sitting in the Gate cinema in Notting Hill watching a film called The Secret in their Eyes, when the phone call came that the News of the World would be printing a fixing story about the Test match the following day.
Sunday passed in a haze of Pakistan wickets tumbling, rumour, innuendo, shock and a great deal of sadness that this could have happened. Nobody, given the detail in the NOTW, doubted the veracity of the story itself. As the ICC’s statistician said during the trial, to predict no-balls such as the ones that were predicted so accurately by Mazhar Majeed, the fixer in the story, would be in the region of many millions to one.
When I came to write for the next day’s paper, I couldn’t get the image of Mohammad Amir out of my mind. Nasser Hussain, commentating for Sky that day, summed up the feelings of many the night before when he said ‘please don’t let it be the kid.’ Just eighteen years of age at the time (and still a teenager now) Amir had been man of the match at the Oval and had bowled superbly in England’s first innings at Lord’s. In a game short of fast bowling talent, he looked like a star in the making.
In more ways than one, too: good-looking, with distinctive floppy black hair, a whippy action and with skill to die for, he had become the youngest bowler to take fifty Test wickets in history. He had a whole career ahead of him, or so it seemed until secretly recorded film showed Majeed, his agent, predicting to a NOTW journalist the timings of two no-balls that Amir bowled, one on the first day and one on the second.