CARDIFF is once again centre of the cricketing world… but in completely different circumstance from when Ashes fever was sweeping the nation.

England’s Twenty20 games at the Swalec Stadium would have barely caused a stir a week ago, just two more fixtures in the closing stages of an already chocker summer.

Tomorrow’s hosts may be world champions after their heroics in the Caribbean but T20 would not have been at the forefront of the minds of many cricket fans in the Principality who are more concerned with Glamorgan sealing promotion to Division One of the County Championship.

But everything changed last Saturday night when Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were named in a News of the World ‘spot fixing’ expose.

It was even enough to turn England’s midweek dropping of star batsman Kevin Pietersen into a side story.

Test captain Butt and opening bowlers Asif and Amir will play no part in the limited overs leg of the tour after being suspended by the International Cricket Council and they are being questioned by police.

England coach Andy Flower stressed the need to focus on the games ahead, but that is easier said than done.

The affair has done little for the image of the game and it will be interesting to hear the reaction from the Swalec Stadium stands when any player makes a genuine error in the field.

The Pakistan team were given an easy ride at Lord’s but a raucous T20 crowd are unlikely to be so generous.

Nor is the game yet a sell-out with Glam chief executive Alan Hamer admitting that ticket sales were slow at the start of the week.

In fact, 10,000 have been sold for tomorrow and just 6,000 for Tuesday’s game with the Welsh county fearing the revelations will prevent a late rush.

When England drew against the Australians in the first Test in Cardiff last year it was the cricket that dominated the headlines.

When England beat Australia in the second ODI in Cardiff in June it was the cricket that dominated the headlines.

Sadly, not even the most dazzling of knocks with the bat or spells with the ball can take the focus away from spot fixing.