Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 23 News List

England makes final attempt to move its games in Zimbabwe


England made a final bid yesterday to get its World Cup game at Zimbabwe moved to South Africa, presenting its case to organizers who have been adamant that it's safe to play there.

If Nasser Hussain and his players -- now backed by their board -- fail, they have an agonizing decision whether to forfeit next Thursday's game and the World Cup points.

The crisis has cast a cloud over the buildup to the eighth World Cup which is predominantly in unaffected South Africa. Zimbabwe hosts six games and Kenya two.

It also has hampered the preparations of an England team still smarting from a 4-1 hammering by Australia in the recent Ashes test series.

While the players want the game moved on safety grounds, the issue also has a political background.

The British government has accused the regime of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe of human rights atrocities with more than half the population facing starvation as a result of chaos caused by his economic policies.

Hussain and his team have stayed silent over the political issues. But they are alarmed that anti-Mugabe protesters will disrupt the game.

While in Australia, the England players had notes pushed under the doors of their hotel rooms from people saying they would disrupt the match if England played in Harare.

With the South African city of Bloemfontein the likely alternative, the World Cup organizers can still move the game as late as Sunday -- the opening day of the championship when South Africa meets the West Indies in Cape Town.

But if the International Cricket Council's technical committee ruled against England yesterday there seemed little chance of the game being moved.

If England won its case, it may not stop there. The Zimbabwean Cricket Union can appeal.

Gathered at a Cape Town hotel, the technical committee heard arguments from the ECB on the reasons it is seeking to have the match rescheduled and any evidence that available to support this position.

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