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Last Updated:  Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 10:09 GMT

Always a doomed game
BBC Sport's cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew says England's cricket team were always unlikely to play their match with Zimbabwe in Harare.

Hussain versus Zimbabwe
England last played in Zimbabwe in October 2000

Talking privately behind the scenes to some of the key figures involved, it is absolutely clear that nobody really wants the match to go ahead, not simply because of the moral and security argument, but also because this is seriously undermining the build up to cricket's showpiece event.

What the authorities need is a loophole from which they can all extricate themselves from their various contracts.

If the Foreign Office security report that England's cricketers have attached to their statement can be verified, that should be enough for the ICC at least to offer the competing countries the option of withdrawing from Zimbabwe.

The greatest sadness is that there will be no winners in this situation.

The Zimbabwe crisis is completely different to the apartheid years in South Africa that were ended, to a large extent, through a sporting ban.

A cricket boycott of Zimbabwe will affect absolutely nobody apart from those few individuals who play cricket, and whose sport will probably be destroyed as a result.

It certainly will not bring about a regime change, nor make the slightest difference to the general population who are suffering so harshly.

But this crisis should have been anticipated when the draw was made a year ago.

It was clear England and Australia would struggle to fulfil their fixtures in Zimbabwe, and they should have been scheduled to be played in South Africa there and then.

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