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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 13:41 GMT

Cup boss begs England to decide
England stick together during training in Cape Town
The England team are sticking together
World Cup director Dr Ali Bacher has pleaded directly with the England cricket team asking them to make an immediate decision on whether to play in Zimbabwe on Thursday.

Dr Bacher interrupted his own viewing of the Australia v Pakistan match in Johannesburg to tell journalists Zimbabwe had to know now, one way or another.

He said: "I would like to make a concerted and impassioned plea to the England team that it's time to make a decision on whether they will play.

"Fair play has always been a strong belief in English cricket. We would ask you to extend the same fairness to South Africa and Africa.

"You've had a long time to make up your minds and discuss the various considerations.

"It's time now to make a decision from a logistical point of view. You can't organise an event overnight."

He said sponsors, ticket-holders and people who have booked flights to watch the match were all being affected by England's indecision.

Earlier, ICC chief executive officer Malcom Speed said: "The ICC cannot make this decision for the ECB.

"It is the responsibility and duty of the ECB to make its own decisions on if it will fulfill its obligations and to tell the ICC of its decision so that the matter can be resolved."

The ECB believes threats to the safety of the England team, contained in a letter purporting to have been sent by the "Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe" should be taken seriously.

An investigation has been carried out by the South African police, who have judged the letter to be a hoax.

The letter threatens to send the England players "back to Britain in wooden coffins", and also asks "how safe are your families back in the UK?"

England captain Nasser Hussain revealed the issue had reduced some of his team-mates to tears.

He described a team meeting on Sunday as "very emotional, very heated".

If England do boycott the game, they face the prospect of forfeiting the four points available for winning the match and a large fine from the International Cricket Council for failing to fulfil contractual obligations.

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