England's isolation March 5, 2004

Sri Lanka agree to Zimbabwe tour

Wisden Cricinfo staff

England have been further isolated in their stance on Zimbabwe, after it was announced that Sri Lanka will be taking part in a two-Test and five one-day international tour of the country in April.

Sri Lanka's decision follows hot on the heels of the approval of Australia's trip in May, and means that England will be increasingly short of allies come the ICC executive board meeting in Auckland on March 9 and 10.

"We were invited and we have no concerns," said Duleep Mendis, Sri Lanka cricket's chief executive. "We have fixed a schedule and no safety or security issues have come up." They are due to start their one-day series on April 20 in Bulawayo, before the first of the two Tests begins on May 6.

At present, England are due to stage the ICC Champions Trophy in September this year, but the ECB's isolation could result in the tournament being moved to a different location. India is already being touted as a possible alternative, and it will require seven of the ten Test-playing nations to vote against England for such an eventuality.

The ECB's chief executive, Tim Lamb, has stressed that England's hands are tied on the issue. "The government don't want us to tour," he was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph, "and you can't open a paper without reading we should not go."