Butt said his accusations against England were only what he had heard from 'bookies' [EPA]

Pakistan's under-fire cricketers were embroiled in bitter new corruption row before play even began in the fourth one-day international against England at Lord's on Monday after the visitors' cricket chief suggested England players had been throwing matches.

In a strongly worded statement, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) rejected an allegation of match-fixing in the third game on Friday which Pakistan won by 23 runs.

The allegation came from Pakistan Cricket Board(PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt in a television interview on Sunday in which he said "there is loud and clear talk in bookies' circles that some English players were paid enormous amounts of money to lose (Friday's) match".

Butt and other Pakistani officials had been angered by the International Cricket Council's (ICC) decision to investigate Pakistan's innings at the Oval after receiving information from a British newspaper about an allegedly suspicious scoring pattern.

Although Butt appeared to backtrack on Monday when he told BBC radio that he had no proof of any wrongdoing and was merely relaying information he had heard from bookmakers, the damage had been done.

A joint statement from the ECB and the England team confirmed the tour would continue with Monday's match and the final one-day international in Southampton on Wednesday.

'Wholly irresponsible'

But it called Butt's reported comments "wholly irresponsible and completely without foundation.

"Both the ECB and Team England view the comments made by Mr Butt as defamatory and not based in fact."

"I definitely did not say this. The bookies have been talking about it and we will investigate the matter and come up with whatever proof we can provide"

Ijaz Butt, PCB chairman

Speaking on behalf of his team, captain Andrew Strauss said there had been "strong misgivings" about proceeding with the series.

"We are deeply concerned and disappointed that our integrity as cricketers has been brought into question. We refute these allegations completely and will be working closely with the ECB to explore all legal options open to us," he said.

"Under the circumstances were have strong misgivings about continuing to play the last two games of the current series and urge the Pakistani team and management to distance themselves from Mr Butt's allegations.

"We do, however, recognise our responsibilities to the game of cricket, and in particular to the cricket-loving public in this country, and will therefore endeavour to fulfil these fixtures to the best of our ability."

Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola told reporters in Durban on Monday that a three-Test series against Pakistan scheduled for Abu Dhabi and Dubai next month would go ahead.

A British newspaper carried a report on Sunday quoting a South African player as saying that playing such a high profile series in the Middle East was "asking for trouble".

The Pakistan players last walked out at Lord's in London last month on the morning that the British News of the World newspaper accused them of engineering incidents in the final Test as part of a betting scam.

After hitting out at England in an interview with India's NDTV,  Butt later told the BBC he was only saying what he had heard from bookmakers, and was not levelling any charges himself.

"I definitely did not say this," he said.

"The bookies have been talking about it and we will investigate the matter and come up with whatever proof we can provide.

"The total statement I made [to NDTV] categorically explained that the bookies are saying this. I am not saying this."

'Defraud Pakistan'

Butt was said to have told NDTV there was a conspiracy to "defraud Pakistan and Pakistani cricket" and to have threatened to reveal names of those involved in the conspiracy.

Pakistan's Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif have all been questioned by British police over an alleged plot to bowl deliberate no-balls during last month's Test at Lord's.

A fourth player – seamer Wahab Riaz – was also interviewed by the British authorities after an alleged middle-man was arrested for allegedly receiving money from undercover newspaper reporters posing as wealthy gamblers.

All the players have denied any wrongdoing.

England lead the five-match series 2-1 and the series is due to conclude at Hampshire's Rose Bowl ground near Southampton on Wednesday.

Source: Agencies