Spot-fixing trial opens old wounds for Swann

But England spinner hopes guilty verdicts result in better relations between Pakistan and England

ENGLAND spinner Graeme Swann insists he is perfectly happy to face Pakistan this winter but admits the outcome of the spot-fixing trial opened up some old wounds.

Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were last night beginning jail sentences after being found guilty of cheating and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.

Swann revealed in his recently-published autobiography that he did not want to play the one-day series against Pakistan last summer after England’s players were also accused of cheating by Ijaz Butt, the then chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board.

As fate would have it, Abu Dhabi hosts England’s next Test series in February against Pakistan, but Swann believes that with the guilty trio now behind bars, relations between the two teams should improve.

“Any ill-feeling that existed between the sides stemmed from that one incident in the Lord’s Test,” said Swann. “With those three guys having their civil liberties taken away and off the scene I think it represents the ideal moment for us to draw a line in the sand.

“I don’t see why the series should be full of animosity. We might come up against some of the guys who were implicated in court, but until someone is charged and found guilty it’s just finger pointing.”

With England having only just returned from the one-day series in India, Swann revealed he had not been keeping pace with events at Southwark Crown Court, which made yesterday’s developments particularly eye-opening.

He said: “It is shocking when something goes from the back to the front pages. It brings back the memories of how we felt at the time and it’s a shame it keeps rearing its head.

“I’ve always looked at it from a point of view of how long they shouldn’t be able to play the game. Now they’ve been found guilty and are behind bars. It’s a sad day for cricket. I hope it’s not the tip of the iceberg and it does send out an incredibly strong message.”

The Breaks Are Off by Graeme Swann, published by Hodder & Stoughton, out now in hardback. Graeme will be signing copies at Leadenhall Market Waterstones at 12:30pm on 7 November.