Eng faces Friday night fright as Zim fate in the balance

Published: Saturday, February 8, 2003, 3:44 [IST]
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Johannesburg: England's desperate and controversial bid to have its World Cup clash against Zimbabwe in Harare switched to South Africa goes down to the wire on Friday as the long-running saga reaches the end game. After its latest attempt to have the February 13 fixture switched on security grounds was turned down by the tournament's technical committee on Thursday, the team's last hope is with an appeal to independent commissioner Justice Albie Sachs. His decision is final.

If, as expected, he comes down on the side of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and against the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), then Nasser Hussain and his men will be faced with two stark choices. They will either have to put their fears to one side and play the match or boycott the Group 'A' game, lose four points and face the prospect of a huge fine for reneging on their contractual obligations. The meeting with Sachs is being held at a secret Cape Town location with a decision likely to be made at around 1700 GMT. "It is clearly in the interests of all concerned that the appeal is dealt with as rapidly as possible," said Sachs. "At the same time, full consideration must be given to all the issues raised."

ICC spokesman Mark Harrison said that Sachs had been appointed because of his understanding of the game. "He has been consulted on various matters in the past and is someone who understands cricket. Therefore he was the appropriate person to nominate as a commissioner," Harrison said. Lawyers form both the ECB and Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) will present their cases before Sachs delivers his verdict.

New Zealand, meanwhile, has yet to put in an official request to have its match against Kenya in Nairobi on February 21 switched because of its fears of another terrorist outrage in the country. New Zealand has already hinted that the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne could represent one avenue for it, although the time factor to have the case settled is working against it. Even South Africa President Thabo Mbeki has become involved in the England-Zimbabwe row, questioning the motives behind countries opposed to playing in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

"I don't understand what these concerns about security are," he said. "It is political. It has nothing to do with security." Elsewhere on Friday, the preparations for Saturday's opening ceremony in Cape Town were continuing, as was the build-up for the first game between South Africa and the West Indies, which also takes place at Newlands on Sunday. The hosts are being widely tipped to reach the March 23 final where most commentators expect them to face defending champion Australia.

AFP Copyright AFP 2001

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