Lord's delay Zimbabwe decision for third time

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The Independent Online

England will again delay a decision on their contentious tour of Zimbabwe next winter because several key figures will be in the Caribbean. The third postponement, until April at the earliest, will persuade some critics that they are pussyfooting around the moral issues.

But the England Wales Cricket Board will consider the opprobrium worth it if they can buy time among the inter-national cricket community. David Morgan, the board's chairman, said yesterday: "We are determined that this shouldn't be anything but a proper, considered decision."

It is still highly unlikely that England will tour. They were keen to make an early decision to avoid a repeat of the wrangles over the World Cup match in Harare last year. But the January resolution was shelved to avoid prematurely upsetting the International Cricket Council, and then Ehsan Mani, chairman of the ICC, asked them to delay it until after the organisation's executive board meeting in Auckland on 9 and 10 March. The ECB arranged a management meeting on 24 March, but no conclusion will be reached, as several members will be away in the West Indies.

Morgan faces the most crucial gathering of his term in Auckland. "It's important that I can persuade the members of the ICC to understand the difficulties of the ECB and the pressures that are peculiar to England," he said.

By deferring a decision England are giving time for Australia's security delegation to report on whether Zimbabwe is safe enough for their tour in May. If they deem it not to be, England have a gaping loophole.

Meanwhile, the dossier prepared by Des Wilson, chairman of the ECB's marketing committee, on using a moral framework for deciding tours will not be officially adopted and has been quietly forgotten. It joins countless other reports gathering dust at ECB HQ.

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