England~~s waiting game goes on... and on and on...

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: England's turmoil over whether or not to boycott its controversial World Cup clash against Zimbabwe deepened on Sunday when it put off a scheduled media conference that had been called to finally announce its decision over the bitter, long-running saga.

The conference, scheduled to take place at 10:30 local time (08:30 GMT) in Cape Town, was postponed to "allow more time for further talks to take place between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the England players", according to ECB media official Andrew Walpole. "At this stage, it is anticipated that a press conference will take place by the afternoon." The ongoing talks between the team and their ECB employers, which lasted for a combined twelve hours on Friday and Saturday, were set to continue against a backdrop of conflicting reports over their intentions over the February 13 match in Harare. Britain's 'Sunday Telegraph' newspaper claimed that the players were refusing to go after receiving death threats while the BBC also claimed that the game would be boycotted. However, the South African 'Sunday Times' reported that the match will go ahead with the only sticking point appearing to be the amount of time the team would spend in Zimbabwe. They claimed that the squad would fly into the Zimbabwean capital on Wednesday, play the match and return to its Port Elizabeth base immediately after the game. Failure to fulfil the fixture could have drastic consequences - England would be docked four World Cup points and hit with a massive fine for reneging on their contractual obligations. The on-going crisis comes on the same day of the tournament's opening match between hosts South Africa and West Indies under the floodlights at Newlands.

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