White races against time to be fit for World Cup start

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Port Elizabeth: England all-rounder Craig White, who bowled his first ball in weeks on Monday, was facing a race against time to be fit for the start of the cricket World Cup. White has not been included in the England squad for the warm-up match against Eastern Province on Monday but is pencilled in for a Thursday match against provincial side Border in East London. The 33-year-old Yorkshire all-rounder tore a side muscle while bowling against Australia in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne, and was told then it would take six weeks to recover.

His injury came as a crippling blow to the English attack as White had been their most successful bowler until that stage with 14 Ashes wickets. "I had my first bowl in however long it's been. I was just going at about 80 per cent out there and I sort of bowled good. It's actually been better than I though it would be," White said on Monday. "I think the big tester will come on Thursday when we play in a game situation," he said. "If I get through Thursday, we still got another week or so before the first game but at least we'll have an idea of how fit I am. "These kind of injuries are always in the back of your mind.

When you come back it's always there. But I'm just going to bowl and try and put up with the pain," he added. "Hopefully, I won't break down. I'm going to give it everything to play in this World Cup." England was waiting to hear from the International Cricket Council (ICC) whether it will play its World Cup opener against Zimbabwe in Harare. The England players have called for the match to be moved to South Africa, where the bulk of the event's 54 matches are taking place. New Zealand, meanwhile, has refused to play Kenya in Nairobi on February 21 on safety grounds. And the Australian government on Monday stepped up its campaign to force the cancellation of Australia's match in Bulawayo on February 24. England captain Nasser Hussain has hinted England could boycott the Zimbabwe match if the ICC does not call it off.

"We are hoping the ICC make a decision and our board help us with our decision," he said. "We have issued our statement about an urgent review and we are hoping that things are going on behind the scenes back in England and around the world. "We want to know what people think about us, there is no point going to play a game of cricket for England in Zimbabwe if people don't want us to."

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed insisted on Sunday that his organisation could not be held responsible if any demonstrators were hurt, in Zimbabwe. "What we are doing in Zimbabwe - running cricket matches - is perfectly legal, and we will do that to the highest possible standard in terms of safety and security," said Speed. "They're not demonstrating against us holding cricket matches, they're demonstrating about economic and political issues." Officials in Bulawayo, which hosts three matches, have posted an around-the-clock guard on the wicket. The move follows threats that an anti-government group has threatened to make the pitch unplayable for Zimbabwe's three World Cup fixtures.

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