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Zimbabwe want ECB promise

Zimbabwe want England to guarantee a tour of their country in 2005 before they commit themselves to fulfilling their visit to the United Kingdom which begins in May and involves two Tests and a triangular one-day series with the home team and South Africa.

This will be made clear on Saturday in Harare when David Morgan, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, meets officials of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. It is understood that this meeting came about only as a result of an intervention by the International Cricket Council.

Following Englandís refusal to play their opening World Cup match in Harare, the relations between the two boards had broken down so completely that they were not even speaking to each other.

The Zimbabweans made no attempt to conceal their intense anger over the way England had cancelled the match and in particular that the ECB had allowed Richard Bevan, the managing director of the English playersí union, to mastermind the teamís refusal to go to Zimbabwe.

The breakdown in relations between England and Zimbabwe considerably alarmed the South Africans and they used the good offices of Ehsan Mani, ICC vice-president, to broker a meeting between the ECB and the Zimbabwean cricket officials. The meeting took place in a Johannesburg hotel last week and has resulted in this weekendís summit.

Morgan will tell the Zimbabweans that despite the statements made in the weeks leading up to Englandís refusal to play in Harare, the only reason England did not travel was due to security fears for players and officials, not any moral or political concerns over the Mugabe regime.

The Zimbabweans are claiming financial loss as a result of Englandís stance and may present a bill to the ECB, which could amount to £500,000.

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