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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 14:53 GMT
England to play in Zimbabwe
Nasser Hussain batting in Harare
England last played in Zimbabwe in October 2001
The England cricket team will play in Zimbabwe as scheduled during the forthcoming World Cup, the England and Wales Cricket Board has decided.

The decision on whether to play the match in Harare on 13 February was taken unanimously by the ECB management board, despite intense political pressure on them to approve a boycott.

Peter Tatchell
Peter Tatchell leads the protest at Lord's

Chief executive Tim Lamb said: "The ECB has always found it perverse and inequitable that we have been asked to make an isolated and purely symbolic gesture by withdrawing from this match.

"Sport, sadly, is once again being used as a political tool to fill the policy vacuum that seemingly exists."

A news conference to announce the decision had to be delayed after placard-carrying protesters infiltrated Lord's for the second day running.

The group included former parliamentary candidate Peter Tatchell, a well-known campaigner and a long-standing critic of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.

The ECB's decision is to be welcomed - cricket is not qualified to do the job of politicians

Ali Bacher
WC executive director

"People are being tortured and raped by the Mugabe regime. That is not cricket and that's why the England team should not go," said Tatchell, who claimed he had been punched by ECB security staff.

Lamb said he understood the depth of feeling surrounding the issue and the ECB did not condone or endorse the activities of the Mugabe regime.

He added: "We hope the World Cup will be an uplifting occasion and a source of pleasure and pride for many Zimbabweans.

"Sport alone does not have the ability to solve political problems, but it can sometimes help to bring people together."

Government disappointed

But a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport described the decision as "disappointing".

"Of course this was a tough call for the ECB to make, but we still believe the government's position was the right one, " he said.

England players are expected to make a statement on the decision when they meet in Adelaide on Wednesday.

Cricket's governing body, the ICC, meanwhile, continues to monitor the security situation in Zimbabwe following riots last weekend.

And it has admitted that the six games scheduled to be played there could still moved to South Africa at short notice should the country be judged unsafe.

If England's game does go ahead, however, the team will not shake hands with president Mugabe if he decides to attend.

Lamb said: "We will not take part in any ceremonial activities that could imply any support for the regime, or be used as a propaganda platform."

Australia, Pakistan, India, Namibia and The Netherlands will also play first round matches in Harare and Bulawayo.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 Mike Gatting, former England captain
"It's one match and will it make any difference?"
 ECB boss Tim Lamb
"We are going to honour our commitment to play"
 Former England batsman Allan Lamb
"A lot of the locals don't want it to go ahead"
 VOTE RESULTS
Should the England team toe the ECB line?

Yes
 47.13% 

No
 52.87% 

4392 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision

Background

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