ECB seeking talks over Zimbabwe

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The Independent Online

The England and Wales Cricket Board will hold further dialogue with the Government before making a decision on whether to fulfil the tour of Zimbabwe later this year.

The ECB's chief executive, Tim Lamb, yesterday confirmed that talks were needed in the wake of the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's correspondence last week. In his letter, Straw fell short of ordering the England team to boycott the scheduled trip in the autumn but underlined the fact that Britain is a major player in an international community which "maintain targeted restrictive measures against leading members of the Zimbabwean regime". Straw asked the ECB to consider whether a high-profile England tour would be consistent with that approach.

"We regard this as fairly explicit advice, in the coded, political language of Whitehall," Lamb said. "To suggest that a tour to Zimbabwe is inconsistent with the foreign policy approach that the British Government is taking, is probably as strong as we are likely to get in the democratic system we live in."

The ECB is set for a series of meetings this week aimed at reaching a resolution on the issue. Lamb was scheduled to talk to the England captain, Michael Vaughan, yesterday to canvass the players' views. With the ECB chairman, David Morgan, he will meet the International Cricket Council president, Ehsan Mani, and chief executive, Malcolm Speed, today, while the ECB Management Board is due to meet on Thursday.

* Struggling West Indies plunged to yet another all-time low in their cricket history when they were bowled out for 54 to lose the first one-day international against South Africa yesterday by 209 runs in Cape Town. It was the lowest score ever made by West Indies, their previous lowest having been 87 against Australia in Sydney 11 years ago. It also equalled the sixth lowest one-day international score overall.