Criticism greets England team in Harare

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The Independent Online

The England cricket team arrived in Harare yesterday to begin their tour and were left in no doubt over the unpopularity of their presence.

The England cricket team arrived in Harare yesterday to begin their tour and were left in no doubt over the unpopularity of their presence.

The 14-man squad will play a reduced four-match tour instead of the planned five after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) secured the entry of the foreign journalists into Harare.

The controversy over the team's first visit to the country in three years was illustrated by graffiti daubed on a hotel wall, appropriately on Robert Mugabe Road in the capital.

"England go home - shame on England!" read the message, emphasising the political aspects of the 10-day trip.

David Morgan, the ECB chairman, is hoping the tour will bring "closure" to the row over whether the team's presence can be interpreted as an endorsement of President Mugabe's regime. Speaking from Harare, he said: "We're concerned this tour should go smoothly, that there should be no demonstrations ... We firmly believe in order for closure of the Zimbabwe affair to take effect we need to play cricket here in Zimbabwe - and that's what we're here for."

He added: "The reason we're here and assisting the management of the tour is evidence that we regard this as a difficult and special tour."

The first match will be played on Sunday and the team will complete the series next weekend before moving on to South Africa, where they may finally be able to leave politics behind and concentrate on the game.

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