Citing personal reasons for withdrawing, Cork, now 25, is thought to have informed the Test and County Cricket Board as well as the tour manager, John Barclay, of his intentions earlier in the week. At present no replacement is being sought and Cork plans to rejoin the squad for the second half of the tour in New Zealand.
Cork, who recently separated from his wife and has a two-year-old son, said in a statement yesterday: "I have some personal matters that need to be resolved, and I need some time to do it.
"I was looking forward to going to Zimbabwe, but feel I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my cricket until I've resolved my problems. Because of this I've asked John Barclay and Tim Lamb [the new chief executive of the TCCB] if they will release me from the first part of the tour. They've agreed to my request.''
The England captain, Michael Atherton, who first heard about Cork's dilemma on Thursday said: "It's important for Dominic to sort his problems out. It is fairly pointless coming on tour and being thousands of miles away if you have problems at home.''
Since his debut at Lord's in 1995, Cork has proved to be England's best bowler and will be badly missed. However, by the end of last summer, 18 months of near non-stop cricket had taken their toll on his knees and his presence in Zimbabwe was according to the England management, more to monitor his rehabilitation under the watchful eye of Dean Riddle, England's fitness consultant, than to play in all the competitive matches.
Even so, his absence will place more strain on the four pace bowlers, two of whom - Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick - have had injury problems on tour before. If replacements are eventually needed, they will be taken from the A team currently touring Australia, where Dean Headley and Andy Harris have been the bowlers in form while Craig White is in good form with the bat.
Graham Thorpe, the Surrey batsman, will be flying to Harare two days later than the rest of the England squad because of the birth on Thursday of his first child.