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England's final appeal rejected
February 08, 2003 00:18 IST
England must decide whether to put principles ahead of World Cup ambitions after their final appeal to switch their match in Zimbabwe was rejected on Friday.
South African judge Albie Sachs, announcing his verdict less than 24 hours before the tournament opening ceremony, ruled that the game should go ahead despite England's concerns over political and social unrest in the country.
Nasser Hussain's side, whose reservations have been based on both moral arguments as well as safety concerns, now face a stark choice.
They can either swallow their pride and travel to Harare or forfeit the Group A game on Thursday. They are due to call a crisis team meeting later on Friday to make their decision.
"There will be a players meeting... Things will become clear after that," England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tim Lamb said.
A forfeit would all but end their hopes of reaching the second round of the competition, since they would have to beat at least two of three world champions, Australia -- who have defeated England in their last 13 one-day meetings -- and 1999 World Cup finalists Pakistan and India to have any chance of progressing.
England's first official request to shift the match was turned down by the World Cup technical committee on Thursday.
England are not the only side to face the dilemma. New Zealand, unsettled by a bombing in Mombasa in November which killed 16 people, have refused point blank to play Kenya in Nairobi on February 21.
Australia, meanwhile, like England in Group A, said earlier this week they were still ready to play Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on February 24.
They, however, like England, have accepted an International Cricket Council offer to meet security experts and discuss the up-to-date situation in Zimbabwe.
The first game of the World Cup will be played on Sunday. South Africa is staging 46 of the 54 games, with six planned for Zimbabwe and two in Kenya.
England -- who were told by ICC chief Malcolm Speed on Thursday that some of their concerns were based on "hearsay, radio reports, newspaper reports" -- Australia and New Zealand are effectively on their own.
Pakistan and India, in Group A, have stressed they are happy to play in Zimbabwe, while Sri Lanka, the other Group B team to play in Nairobi, also have no qualms.
New Zealand have yet to lodge an official request for a venue switch.
They have also not made an appeal for a venue switch, suggesting they could resort to other legal challenges or simply forfeit their match.
New Zealand Cricket chief executive Martin Snedden told Reuters by phone on Friday: "It'll probably be two to three days before I can make an announcement about our intentions publicly."
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