CAPE TOWN: The England and Wales Cricket Board's (ECB) final appeal to have its World Cup opener against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 13 switched to South Africa on safety grounds was rejected by independent commissioner Justice Albie Sachs at a hearing here on Friday.
The ECB have no right of appeal against the ruling of the South African judge, one of three World Cup commissioners acting as the tournament's 'court of last resort.'
Now England must either go ahead with Thursday's match as scheduled or withdraw and be docked four World Cup points, as well as risk a substantial fine imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for breaking their contractual obligations.
Sachs, explaining his decision, told a press conference: “The ECB makes no complaint about the Zimbabwe Cricket Union nor against the players in the Zimbabwe team. It is the setting that leaves anxiety in the ECB's mind.
“The players have manifested deep concern not only about the moral question but the safety of players and spectators.
“The greater the degree of danger and the more damaging its impact the greater the duty on the organising authorities to intervene.
“Having heard the appeal I have not been persuaded that the decision of the technical committee (to insist the match takes place in Harare) was wrong.
“This appeal does not raise or deal in any way with the consequences of the ECB and the England players not to play in Zimbabwe. These are matters for the ECB and the players.”
England spokesman Andrew Walpole told AFP that they had no immediate official comment to make about Sachs's decision.
“The players are currently receiving a briefing from Patrick Ronan, the World Cup's head of security,” he said.
“They will then have a pre-arranged meeting with Tim Lamb (ECB chief executive) and Richard Bevan (players' representative and managing director of England's Professional Cricketers' Association).
“This could go on for several hours,” added Walpole at 7:30pm local time (1730GMT). We may have a further statement then but I cannot say for certain.”
Last month England's players said they wanted the match moved because of fears for their own security and that of Zimbabwean spectators. – AFP
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