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February 05, 2003 18:08 IST

England are almost certain not to play in Zimbabwe after a formal request to switch the World Cup match was lodged on Tuesday.

It is the first time the players and the board have backed each other in a bid to force tournament organisers to move the match to a South African venue.

Security fears are growing daily among the England camp, and the Australians are also increasingly opposed to playing their match in Bulawayo.

England captain Nasser Hussain said: "This has become more than a game of cricket in Zimbabwe.

"It's become a huge topic, and the situation for England and England cricketers is different to any other part of the world.

"That is so simply because of the amount of press it's received and the feeling we have in England about this game.

"Hence it should be reviewed in a different way from everyone else."

Australia have insisted they will not seek to have their World Cup match in Zimbabwe switched to South Africa, according to reports.

The Aussies are due to meet the co-hosts in Bulawayo on 24 February.

Leading Australian players and team officials met with the Australian high commissioner to Zimbabwe on Tuesday night. And all parties emerged two-and-a-half hours later, reportedly happy with the outcome of the talks.

Australian Cricket Board chief executive James Sutherland said: "There is no hiding from the fact the players do have some concerns about Zimbabwe.

"What we are trying to do is make sure that they have as much information in front of them before they go to Zimbabwe.

"We are committed to working through a process with our players and making sure they have all the information in respect to safety and security.

"At this stage, we are committed to playing in Zimbabwe," he stated.

Herschelle GibbsHerschelle Gibbs hit a century to underline his potential to be one of the stars of the World Cup in a comfortable win for the tournament hosts.

And at the same time, South Africa got over the embarrassment of losing their first warm-up match at the weekend.

All 15 players in the national squad appeared in the match in Paarl, with Lance Klusener, Makhaya Ntini and Robin Peterson playing for Boland.

And Jacques Kallis shrugged off a couple of injuries sustained in the nets to take his place for South Africa, though his bowling was not risked.

He did, however, hit an unbeaten 43 as South Africa coasted to a seven-wicket win. Boland collapsed after an impressive start in which Graeme Smith and Chad Baxter added 95 for the first wicket. Boje finished with impressive figures of two for 16 from his 10 overs.

South Africa 208-3 (40.3 overs) beat Boland 205 all out (50 overs)

Pakistan were awarded a win under the Duckworth-Lewis method as rain intervened in their World Cup warm-up match against Gauteng.

Set a target of 264-7 by Pakistan, Gauteng reached 123-4 from 30 overs before the heavens opened.

Earlier in the day, a good all-round batting display helped Waqar Younis's side to a respectable total. Middle-order batsman Younis Khan top scored with 50 while young star Salim Elahi chipped in with 43.

Other key knocks came from old-guards Wasim Akram and Waqar, who both ended the innings unbeaten on 33 and 25 respectively.

Pakistan 264-7 (50 overs) beat Gauteng 123-4 (D/L method)

Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj SinghRahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh put in solid performances as India got the better of a rain-hit warm-up game at the City Oval.

The game was declared a no result after KwaZulu-Natal managed only 18 overs of their reply before bad light and rain prevented further play.

Dravid and Singh both hit 66, adding 122 for the fourth wicket.

Earlier, India recovered from the early loss of Virender Sehwag for just four as Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly added 90 for the second wicket.

Both Tendulkar and Ganguly just missed out in fifties, but it gave an opportunity for other batsmen to have a go.

India stood on 220-4 after the Dravid-Yuvraj stand, but failed to launch a serious assault in the last few overs.

For the provincial side, Andrew Tweedie took three for 43.

In reply, KwaZulu-Natal reached 69 for two after 18 overs, with Ashish Nehra taking the wickets of Hashim Mahomed and Ahmed Mahomed Amla.

India 265-7 v KwaZulu-Natal 69-2 (18 overs). No result.

Captain Steve Tikolo led the way for Kenya with bat and ball as they scored a World Cup warm-up win over Border on Tuesday.

Tikolo scored 52 as the Kenyans were dismissed for 210 with five balls of their allotted 50 overs remaining.

And he then ripped through the Border batting to take four for 48 as the South African side fell 12 runs short of their victory target.

Kenya's batting was largely carried by Tikolo and Hitesh Modi, who top-scored with 87.

But Border's Piet Strydom, the province's only player with international experience, out-performed even Tikolo with the ball, taking four wickets for just 29 runs.

Kenya 210 all out (49.1 overs) beat Border 199 all out (50 overs) by 11 runs.

Disciplined bowling and some fine batting from Paul Collingwood and Alec Stewart ensured a comfortable five-wicket win for England in their first warm-up match of the World Cup.

Having restricted Eastern Province to a sub-standard total, England did slump to 31 for three when they began their run chase.

But once Collingwood (78) and Stewart (55 not out) became established in a 104-run partnership, there was always going to be just one winner.

Andrew Caddick and Andrew Flintoff took two wickets each while Matthew Hoggard, Ashley Giles and Ian Blackwell all had successes of their own.

Craig White got himself fit in time to bowl four tidy overs, conceding just nine runs, though he also fell for a duck when he opened the batting.

England 177-5 (40 overs) beat Eastern Province 173-9 (50 overs)

Defending champions Australia disposed of North West by 151 runs in their first World Cup warm-up.

A 106-run partnership between Darren Lehmann and Damien Martyn formed the backbone for the Aussies to post a good score after a subdued start.

Australia then bowled their hosts out for just 129 with spinners Shane Warne and Brad Hogg claiming two scalps apiece.

Lehmann and Martyn laid the platform for the lower order to punish the North West bowlers for some loose bowling.

Adam Gilchrist played some fine shots, scoring 27 off 36 balls.

Lehmann hit six fours and a towering six before he retired on 64 off 68 balls.

Australia 280 all out (50 overs) beat North West 129 all out (41.4 overs) by 151 runs.

Jacob Oram was the star performer as New Zealand secured a workmanlike success over Easterns in Benoni. All-rounder Oram's five wickets helped dismiss the hosts for 130, covering up for the Black Caps' indifferent display earlier with the bat.

In their 50 overs they mustered 208 for seven with evergreen Chris Harris top-scoring with 51.

Nathan Astle weighed in with 42 and Scott Styris also got a start before being dismissed for 40.

All-rounder Chris Cairns, on the comeback trail after injury, notched one run before being clean bowled by Zander de Bruyn.

Easterns were in strife from the start of their chase, slumping to 48 for five with Oram and Shane Bond (two for 36) applying the pressure.

Spinner Daniel Vettori also impressed in an eight-over spell that yielded a wicket for the cost of only 23 runs.

New Zealand 208-7 (50 overs) beat Easterns 130 all out (36 overs) by 78 runs.

Dilhara Fernando was in the wickets and Marvan Atapattu in the runs as Sri Lanka enjoyed a comfortable win at the De Beers Diamond Oval.

After early rain reduced the match to 36 overs a side, the home team enjoyed some success with the bat in the middle order.

Jason Brooker topscored with 44 and Griqualand skipper Wendell Bossenger contrinbuted 39 off just 44 balls.

The duo added 75 for the fifth wicket before both men fell to fast bowler Fernando, who finished with three for 27.

In reply, Sri Lanka lost just three wickets in reaching their target, with plenty of time to spare.

Atapattu collected 75 runs from 90 balls, while Mahela Jayawardene hit 47.

Sri Lanka 168-3 (29.5 overs) beat Griqualand West 163-8 (36 overs).

Marlon Samuels could yet play for West Indies at the World Cup despite being withdrawn from the squad due to injury fears.

Wes Hall, President of the West Indies Cricket Board, is seeking to have one of the rising stars of Caribbean cricket re-instated.

This follows the receipt of two medical reports on Samuels' troublesome left knee which effectively cleared the way for the 22-year-old batsman to start playing immediately.

"The results of these reports aprovide excellent news for Marlon and, indeed, West Indian cricket fans throughout the world," said Hall.

"Both doctors have concurred that Marlon may return to competitive cricket at all levels - with immediate effect - and we are extremely pleased at this development.

"The reports both share the view that Marlon does, indeed, have a problem with his left knee and that the problem is one, which, because of its chronic nature will require periodic monitoring and evaluation.

"Both doctors, however, concur that there is no immediate need for surgical intervention."

Zimbabwe World Cup opening batsman Mark Vermeulen has escaped uninjured after being involved in a car smash near Harare.

Vermeulen and his brother Roland were driving from Bulawayo when their car veered off the road and plunged into an embankment at Snake Park, 13 miles from the capital.

Cricketing friends following in another vehicle picked up the badly shaken brothers and took them to a city hospital where they were given the all clear.

"They were both unhurt, but obviously very shaken and the car was badly damaged," said Zimbabwe Cricket Union communications manager Lovemore Banda.

The 23-year old right-handed batsman, who is also the Matabeleland captain, is expected to open the batting in the tournament with Craig Wishart.

He won a place in the 15-man squad ahead of former captain Alistair Campbell and has an impressive average of 38.40 after figuring in seven one-day internationals.

The International Cricket Council's troubleshooting event committee has taken over the technical aspects of the World Cup and it already has plenty of issues to deal with.

Foremost among these will be deciding whether matches will be played in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

The six-member event committee, headed by ICC chief Malcolm Speed, will also act as a forum through which complaints can be heard.

One of its first tasks will be to brief all the teams on its functions, but once that is done, the real work will begin.

The rest of the committee comprises Cricket World Cup organising committee managing director Dr Ali Bacher, ICC commercial manager Campbell Jamieson, United Cricket Board director of playing affairs Brian Basson, and former players Sunil Gavaskar of India and Michael Holding of the West Indies.

England are expected to ask the committee to move their match from Harare on February 13, citing concerns over player safety in light of various protests against the government of President Robert Mugabe.

New Zealand, who have already stated that they won't play in Nairobi on February 21, are expected to ask the committee to reschedule their match against Kenya and move it to South Africa.

Last week, soon after Australia touched down in South Africa, Shane Warne was sprouting forth on how his team had the edge on the Proteas.

Glenn McGrath followed suit, going as far as to predict that Australia would retain the World Cup by going through the tournament unbeaten.

"Remember that last year we played well against them to record a convincing 5-1 scoreline in front of their home crowds.

"I'm confident we can beat them again when it matters," McGrath said.

"The Proteas play with a lot of confidence against every other team but us. I feel as though they don't believe they can beat us and that attitude has helped us score some big wins over them."

But former South African fast bowler Fanie de Villiers believes that the Warne and McGrath comments were designed to keep the Aussies in a positive frame of mind and hide Warne's own self-doubts.

"South Africa have the advantage at the moment," said De Villiers.

"If I was Australia, I'd pray they didn't catch us in the semifinal. Shane's comments tell me that he's trying to get his own confidence up."

"When Warnie talks about that supremacy, it's unfair because he's including those test series wins straight after the (Hansie Cronjé bookmaking) scandal and our team was caught on the back foot with a new captain and coach," De Villiers said.

Zimbabwe coach Geoff Marsh believes his side would rather be beaten by Australia than get the free four points if the world champion refuses to play in Bulawayo.

"In a World Cup you don't want to just take points," Marsh said from Harare. "We certainly don't want to receive points for nothing. Our guys would much prefer to play the game and do it the right way."

Even if that meant being beaten? "There is no doubt about that," he said.

"Our guys watched them play South Africa last year and they really want to play against the best," Marsh said. "They realise they will never get the chance to play against Shane Warne in one-day cricket again, so they will be very disappointed if the don't get the chance here. I remember the dressingroom talk last year, how excited the boys were about the prospect of playing the Waugh brothers before they left the game.

"They missed that opportunity when the tour was cancelled and it appears it will never come again."

England have formally requested their match against Zimbabwe in Harare on 13 February be switched to South Africa.

The decision now rests with the ICC technical committee.

They will decide, later this week or early next week, if the game will be moved on safety grounds.

They can also order the four points for the match be shared.

The Kenya cricket board has urged New Zealand to reconsider their refusal to play a World Cup game in Nairobi later this month, and to halt plans to appeal to Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"Our stand is that whatever they will do which is contrary to the decision of the ICC board of directors is illegal," said Kenya Cricket Association (KCA) chairman Jimmy Rayani.

"The decision by the ICC board is final and irreversible. New Zealand should just accept the verdict and come to Nairobi."

"I have heard of the intention by New Zealand to move to the Court of Arbitration but no official communication has come," Rayani added.

"I know they will try everything possible to have the match moved, but we will stand firm by the ICC decision.

"I have sent a communication to (ICC chief executive Malcolm) Speed that we will object to any moves aimed at moving the venue of any of the two matches."

Indian bookies are really thirsting for some action in the forthcoming cricket World Cup.

They have posed a serious challenge even to Ladbrokes, the most renowned bookmaking firm in England, by offering decisively superior odds to punters the world over.

If only cricket betting in India had been legal, Indian bookies would have advertised their odds and then punters all over the world would be forced to direct their bets to Indian bookies if they wanted bigger and better odds on almost all the bets.

With the exception of South Africa, for which Ladbrokes offers 2.5 against Indian bookies' 2.35, all the other countries are offered more generous odds by Indian bookies.

No wonder, bookies in the subcontinent are looking forward to doing business of over Rs 30,000 crore during this World Cup.

"If I was the Indian captain I would perhaps open with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag and have Sourav Ganguly at number four.But the best thing for the Indian team would be to take it match by match", former India opener Krishnamachari Srikkanth said.

"They have three very good openers in Tendulkar, Ganguly and Sehwag and what's the harm in trying them in different matches?"

The former India captain and coach also had a suggestion for the new dasher upfront, Sehwag: "I think he should just stick to his natural game. He has been quite successful thus far and there's no reason why he should change his game all of a sudden."

West Indies captain Carl Hooper on Tuesday paid his respects to disgraced South African ex-skipper Hansie Cronje who was killed in a plane crash last year, a news report said.

Hooper, who with his team is based in the central South African city, visited the ashes of the fallen player at Cronje's former school, Grey College in Bloemfontein, where he laid a wreath at a memorial wall.

"I still have the utmost respect for Hansie Cronje," he said.

Hooper said he and Cronje had not spoken much, but shared a passion for both cricket and Christianity.

"What has happened to him could befall anybody."

Brian Lara has pledged to make up for lost time at the World Cup starting with the opening match against the hosts South Africa in Cape Town on Sunday and put behind him the last few miserable months when his place in the tournament had been put in jeopardy by a bout of hepatitis.

Lara believes he is fully-fit to resume battle after being laid low with hepatitis after the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka last year which ruled him out of the tours to India and Bangladesh.

"I'm feeling well at present and I think we have a very good chance at the World Cup," he said.

"I think our performances in India and Bangladesh (where both one-day series were won) proves the youngsters are coming through and a good team performance is necessary in the World Cup.

"I am medically fit and ready to go out there in the middle. We have a good team and can bring home the trophy," said

Lara who has beaten off calls for him to be dropped from the team.

If Chris Cairns can keep body and soul together, paying particular attention to his knees, then New Zealand should be able to start planning for at least a semi-final appearance at the World Cup.

After a nine-month lay-off from the international scene, the 32-year-old returned to the Black Caps squad for the final three one-dayers against India recently but only as a batsman.

"I'm still working on my bowling, so I'm still looking at an all-round role," said Cairns who hopes to bowl again when the Kiwis open up their World Cup campaign against Sri Lanka in Bloemfontein on February 10.

"I'm working towards giving (captain) Stephen Fleming the option of me as a bowler."

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