11 January 2008

Zimbabwe: Cricket Team Leaves for Violence-Hit Pakistan

A SUICIDE bomber yesterday blew himself up and killed 22 people in Pakistan as Zimbabwe prepared to leave today for a cricket tour of the violence-torn Asian country.

However, Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka insisted all the players and officials travelling to Pakistan were "comfortable".

There were doubts that the tour would go ahead due to the violence that has rocked Pakistan since former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27.

Yesterday's blast at the Lahore High Court was the latest in a wave of attacks targeting politicians and security forces ahead of parliamentary elections on February 18.

Because of the volatile situation, the International Cricket Council was forced to move next month's qualifying tournament for the Women's World Cup in which Zimbabwe are participating to South Africa.

However, Chingoka said Zimbabwe would proceed with the tour after getting assurance from the Pakistan Cricket Board over the safety and security situation.

"We will be touring Pakistan. The players and their technical staff are all comfortable with the tour," Chingoka said yesterday.

"I will accompany the team on the first leg of the tour."

The Zimbabwe squad were scheduled to fly from Harare to Johannesburg today en route to Karachi, Pakistan, for the tour which comprises five one-day internationals and opens with a four-day match in Karachi.

Prosper Utseya leads a familiar 15-man squad that includes Raymond Price, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor and Elton Chigumbura.

Since 1992, Zimbabwe and Pakistan have played 35 times, with the Asian giants winning 31 of the encounters.

Zimbabwe have won just two times, while two matches between them were tied.

The two sides last met at Sabina Park in Jamica in a World Cup match last year which Pakistan won by 93 runs.

Zimbabwe squad

Prosper Utseya (captain), Gary Brent, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Keith Dabengwa, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Raymond Price, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams.

Fixtures

January 14-17 -- four-day match in Karachi

January 21 -- first ODI, Karachi (Day/Night)

January 24 -- second ODI, Hyderabad

January 27 -- third ODI, Multan (day/night)

January 30 -- fourth ODI, Faisalabad (day/night)

February 2 -- fifth ODI, Sheikhupura. -- Staff Writer.

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