Westfield cleared to play Minor County and Second XI matches

Former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield has been cleared to return to English reserve level and minor counties cricket a year ahead of schedule after serving a ban for corruption, it was announced on Thursday.

Danish Kaneria (in picture) was banned for life following his spot fixing offences alongside Westfield.   -  AP

Former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield has been cleared to return to English reserve level and minor counties cricket a year ahead of schedule after serving a ban for corruption, it was announced on Thursday. The pace bowler was banned from all cricket for five years and sentenced to four months in prison after pleading guilty to a spot-fixing offence in a 2009 one-day fixture against Durham, an incident which later led to a life ban for former Essex and Pakistan leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.

Westfield's suspension runs until February 16, 2017 and he cannot play first-class cricket until that date.

But part of a previously all encompassing ban has been relaxed by England's Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) in an acknowledgement of the now 27-year-old Westfield's involvement in anti-corruption programmes. "The Cricket Discipline Commission today announced that the former Essex cricketer Mervyn Westfield will be allowed to play Minor Counties and First Class Second XI cricket from the start of this season," said a statement.

Westfield was charged along with Kaneria after accepting £6,000 ($8,619) for agreeing to concede 12 runs from his first over in a county 40 overs per side match in September 2009 - even though Durham only scored 10 runs. Kaneria was later given a global life ban from cricket after being found guilty of enticing Westfield into spot-fixing - a process whereby specific incidents in a match, rather than the result itself, are fixed for underhand financial gain.

Westfield was allowed to return to club cricket two years ago and has played for the Frinton-on-Sea team in Essex for the last two seasons.

He has also spoken to young players at England's Professional Cricketers Association's pre-season rookie camp and at a recent event in South Africa which tried to educate cricketers on the threat of corruption.

'Exceptional circumstances'

"The CDC Panel ruled that Westfield must continue to serve the remainder of his five-year ban from first-class county cricket because strong deterrent sentences continue to play an important role in the wider fight against corruption in cricket," the CDC statement also said.

However, CDC chairman Gerard Elias added: "The panel concluded that Mr Westfield has made a real and substantial effort in this area which reflects his continuing remorse and a genuine desire on his part to repay cricket for the harm caused by his actions in 2009. In these exceptional circumstances, we shall allow him to participate in minor counties cricket and first-class county second XI cricket from February 17th, 2016.

"However, he will not be able to participate in first-team cricket for any first-class county until his original sentence expires on February 16th, 2017."