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England unlikely to play in Harare after fresh twist

New security inputs bound to put ICC under pressure;
ECB may want Thursday’s match scrapped and points shared

Cape Town: The Zimbabwe issue has taken yet another dramatic turn — and, despite indications to the contrary, till even Saturday night, it’s now highly unlikely that Nasser Hussain’s England squad will play Thursday’s Pool A league game in Harare.

Officially, though, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will take a decision once the International Cricket Council (ICC) has reacted to its latest move: The presentation of “fresh” security-related inputs, which reached early Sunday.

This presentation, one understands, will be made late Sunday/early Monday and is bound to put the ICC under pressure. Though ECB chief executive Tim Lamb hardly said anything at all during a late-evening Media conference, Sunday, Professional Cricketers’ Association chief Richard Bevan was pretty forthcoming.

A brief backgrounder, of course, is necessary.

In rejecting the ECB’s call to shift Thursday’s match to South Africa, the ICC had (among other things) relied heavily on the supposedly independent Kroll Report, which effectively endorsed the ICC’s stand on security (in Zimbabwe). That report, however, talked about “five intelligence issues” which could only be conveyed verbally (to the ICC) lest the details fall into “public hands”.

From what Bevan observed, the “five issues” weren’t conveyed to the ECB, though the ECB brass was very much aware of a “threat letter” which reached Lamb a fortnight ago. It categorically warned not just Hussain and his teammates, but the families as well. While the ECB then treated it as a “hoax,” it now seems that assessment was wrong.

Clearly, Hussain and Co. are distinctly unhappy over having been kept in the dark. According to The Telegraph’s sources, the players “didn’t mince words” when chairman David Morgan and Lamb met them — individually and collectively (at different times Sunday) — to “explain” the ECB position.

That, however, isn’t too big an issue. The “inaccurate” Kroll Report is. And, going by indications, the ECB may now ask the ICC to scrap Thursday’s game and award both teams two points each. If that is actually proposed, the ECB will also be calling for no claims being made for damages.

That the ICC didn’t take the ECB into confidence over the “five intelligence issues” is bound to weaken its position. Moreover, Zimbabwe has already objected to the shifting of any home match outside the country.

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