England cancel first tie

ENGLAND’S cricketers will not play the controversial opening match of their World Cup campaign against Zimbabwe in Harare on Thursday, it was confirmed last night.

The fixture has been embroiled in controversy for weeks amid protests over President Robert Mugabe’s regime and wrangling between the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the English Cricket Board (ECB) continued until less than 48 hours before the match.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed told a news conference in Cape Town that the fixture had been cancelled after the ECB decided not to fulfil it.

It was not clear if it could still be played later outside Zimbabwe The ECB has pushed for the match to be moved out of the country after the players received death threats from an organisation called the Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe.

Mr Speed said: “The ECB cited safety concerns for the players as their reason for not fulfilling that commitment,” he said.

The ICC directed the ECB to comply and play the match in Zimbabwe. The ECB said yesterday that it does not believe that direction is reasonable.

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