A question mark was today still hanging over the England cricket team’s opening World Cup match in Zimbabwe on Thursday as the wrangle over security concerns surrounding the game continued.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) was due to meet with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) today following the disclosure of new information that gave rise to further security concerns over the weekend.
If it can be proved that the game should not take place in Harare and the England team decide to boycott the game, English cricket chiefs were said to be hoping that the ICC would rule that both England and Zimbabwe should get two points each and avoid a fine.
This would make it possible for the England team to avoid playing the controversial match without having to incur the penalty.
An ECB party met ICC hierarchy last night with new evidence of security risks to players, which were leaked on Friday night during talks over safety.
Afterwards the ICC chief executive, Malcolm Speed. sent out a statement saying he will address the ECB’s concerns today.
“The ICC received some new information relating to a security concern from the ECB on Sunday evening. That information has been provided to National Deputy Commissioner of Police, Andre Pruis, South Africa’s second most senior police officer,” he said.
“He will provide an assessment to the ICC by noon today. This will also be passed to the ECB, for them to assess what further action they may wish to take on this issue.”
The England team were reportedly due to announce that they would boycott the game yesterday morning after reports that they received death threats.Their decision was deferred for further talks with the ECB.
ECB chief executive Tim Lamb later said safety and security information it had been seeking for several days finally came to light early yesterday.
It confirmed concerns the ECB had and meant an announcement on whether England would travel to Harare would have to be delayed until the new information was formally communicated to the ICC and its response received.
“This announcement will be made as soon as practicably possible,” Mr Lamb said yesterday.
Mr Lamb said the team would remain in Cape Town for at least another 24 hours and a practice session would be held there today.
The drawing out of talks between the ECB and the 15-man squad were seen in some quarters as an eleventh hour bid to persuade Nasser Hussain’s side not to boycott the opening match of England’s World Cup campaign.
Twice in the past month the players have made it clear they believe international cricket authorities should intervene – but both the tournament technical committee and appeals commissioner Justice Albie Sachs ruled there was not sufficient risk to the security of players and officials to alter the location.
The England players cited fears for their own safety, and that of protesting Zimbabweans, should they travel to the trouble-torn African country.
But security experts, including those who compiled the Kroll report – an independent risk assessment commissioned on behalf of the ICC – attempted to alleviate their concerns during recent talks.
The BBC’s cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew claimed on Saturday night he had been told the players had decided to pull out of the game.
And the Sunday Telegraph reported that the England players would refuse to play after receiving threats from a group called “The Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe”.
The threats, against the team and their families, were made in letters received by the squad last week.
The row has overshadowed the tournament which was opened by a spectacular ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa, on Saturday.
The British Government has repeatedly and strenuously made clear its opposition to the match going ahead.