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England stand still ‘unclear’

Johannesburg: England’s World Cup campaign was reduced to farce and utter confusion on Monday as organisers demanded a once-and-for-all decision on whether they would play their match in strife-torn Zimbabwe.

The ICC said it was still “unclear” on England’s stand on the issue. England missed a deadline set by ICC chief Malcolm Gray to make up their minds over Thursday’s match in Harare, despite four days of talks between players, security experts and officials.

The confusion followed an ICC document released to reporters in Cape Town which said England had given “formal notice” that they would not play the game. The ECB denied this before the ICC released a statement saying they had received a new letter from the ECB, which still failed to say whether the team would play or not.

The affair appeared to have been brought to an end last week when the organisers rejected an England appeal to switch the Zimbabwe game to South Africa, arguing that Harare was a safe venue. That decision, made by the World Cup technical committee and ratified on appeal by an ICC-appointed judge, was supposedly binding.

England, however, have continued to argue, both with the tournament organisers and among themselves. The squad broke that routine on Monday by practising for the first time in four days.

South Africa’s national deputy commissioner of police Andre Pruis, reiterated at an ICC-organised news conference that the letter containing death threats had been dismissed as a hoax by the country’s police and intelligence services.

Meanwhile, Nasser Hussain said some of his players have been reduced to tears in trying to decide whether to play in strife-torn Zimbabwe. Hussain said on Monday that his players met to try and reach a decision. “It was a very emotional, very heated meeting,” he said. “There were people in tears earlier... Each individual was speaking, telling his pros and cons for going. We weren’t sure what we were doing.”

NZ may review plans

Meanwhile, New Zealand may have to rethink their decision to boycott the game in Kenya after the team lost the opening game to Sri Lanka.

“The situation with Kenya is that the process is still underway. It’s an obvious thing to look at when the side loses, the pressure goes on,” Stephen Fleming said.

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