The Thin White Line

The Thin White Line
by Nick Greenslade

Published by Pitch Publishing
A2 Yeoman Gate, Yeoman Way
Worthing, Sussex BN13 3QZ


Pages: 256

MRP: £19.99

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Is it really ten years since the infamous spot-fixing took place at Lord's and resulted in prison sentences for three Pakistani cricketers? I remember that strange Sunday (and was also one of the members mentioned on pages 110 and 111 who watched the surreal presentations after the match...)

Nick Greenslade, deputy sport editor of The Sunday Times, has put together a most fascinating and in-depth book chronicling the events of that infamous Lord's Test, a Test which Pakistan went into with a chance of squaring the four-match series. It had started promisingly for the tourists before a record eighth-wicket partnership between Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad took the hosts to a far greater total than seemed likely. A poor first innings for Pakistan meant an invitation to follow on. After news broke on Sunday morning that no balls had been bowled to order, it was little surprise that Pakistan lasted very little time later in the day.

The Thin White Line is an engrossing read and charts in great detail all the events which led to The News of the World revealing the spot-fixing by the captain, Salman Butt, and two bowlers, Mohammad Asif and the teenager, Mohammad Amir, who had started his international career so impressively. Working in journalism and working for a paper which shared a a parent company, News International, and offices with the News of the World makes Nick Greenslade an ideal person to report on the saga. The book is also interesting for painting a picture of the journalistic trade.

All events, including how the cricketers spent their time in prison, are very well covered as are the lengths to which The News of the World paid out £150,000 to lure the fixer, Mazhar Majeed, into a hotel where the investigative journalist, Mazher Mahmood (using an alias, of course), had had equipment installed to capture the moment.

The Thin White Line does not just end with the fate of the cricketers and the fixer but highlights the later fate of Mahmood and other investigations which he had taken part in. When he reported on another celebrity being involved in drugs, a comparatively small point was left out of the inquiry with the end result being that the tables were turned on Mahmood and he too was landed with a prison sentence. Naturally, other people who had been victims of the Fake Sheikh wanted their cases looked at. There is far more to this tale than just the three Pakistani cricketers, two of whom, Butt and Asif, would not appear again for Pakistan.

I can wholeheartedly recommend The Thin White Line for its wide-ranging and diverse look at not just that Lord's Test of 2010 but many other stories involving other areas and not just cricket. Although there have been other claimed instances of fixing in cricket since, none has had quite the impact as those days in late August 2010. If the malpractice has or is being cured, we should be grateful.