Cape Town: A final England appeal to switch their World Cup match against Zimbabwe in Harare was thrown out on Friday.
South African judge Albie Sachs confirmed Thursday’s decision by the World Cup technical committee that the match should go ahead on February 13.
“It would be a setback to the development of the game in Zimbabwe if the games were relocated,” he said.
Sachs, however, stressed that he understood England’s concerns, saying there were worrying political and economic issues in Zimbabwe.
“It would be wrong to turn a blind eye,” he said.“The whole cricket community will be watching the situation.”
The ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said organisers would reduce the length of England’s stay in Zimbabwe in a bid to convince them to play there. “We are shortening the period they are in Zimbabwe.”
England had argued the fixture should be moved to South Africa, the main tournament hosts, because of the political and social unrest in Zimbabwe.
Nasser Hussain’s side will now have to decide whether to forfeit the game.
The tournament’s opening ceremony takes place in Cape Town Saturday, with South Africa playing West Indies in the first match Sunday.
England, meanwhile, have accepted an ICC offer for an up-to-date security briefing, suggesting the team is still considering playing there.
An ICC spokesman said that both England and Australia had asked for a meeting. “England and Australia decided to take up the ICC offer,” he said. “They will receive up-to-date, in-depth information.
“It will be very detailed, explaining how security around them will work, from when they arrive to when they play and when they leave.”
The controversy-plagued tournament has been dogged by arguments over possible match boycotts for weeks, with political and social unrest in Zimbabwe the main cause.
Australia have also expressed worries about the situation in Zimbabwe but remain committed to playing in Bulawayo on February 24.
The ZCU president Peter Chingoka said he still hoped England would play in Harare after losing their appeal to have the fixture switched.
“I hope they will come,” he said. “We are very pleased. We are anxious to have all six games going ahead in Zimbabwe.”
The England players are due to call an emergency meeting to make their decision about the game.
Should they refuse to play and forfeit the game, they would almost end their hopes of reaching the second round, since they would have to beat at least two of world champions Australia, 1999 finalists Pakistan and India.
NZ have three options: ICC
The ICC president Malcolm Gray admitted there was no progress on the fate of New Zealand’s match in Kenya, adds a report from Johannesburg.
New Zealand announced last month they will not travel to Nairobi for the February 21 match against the hosts due to security fears, but have not officially told the ICC they want the match to be moved to South Africa.
Gray said the matter was “legally complex” and stressed he could not give a definitive answer on the likely outcome. The ICC president said New Zealand had three options to pursue, but insisted time was running out.
“They could go to mediation, they could use the internal dispute mechanism of the ICC — the technical committee which heard the England case — or they could go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.”
He doubted New Zealand would take their case to the ICC’s technical committee, but could use the Lausanne option, because “if a single arbitrator was appointed, they could attend to the matter quickly.”
Contacted on the phone, NZC chief executive Martin Snedden said: “It’ll probably be two to three days before I can make an announcement about our intentions publicly. I don’t want to comment on that.”