Cricket: Unfit Eden Gardens loses England match

Angry fans waved banners and shouted slogans in Kolkata yesterday as an International Cricket Council (ICC) inspection team assessed whether Eden Gardens could host three World Cup games after losing the showpiece match between England and India to the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

Eden Gardens, one of India's best-known grounds, was stripped of the host nation's eagerly-anticipated clash with England on 27 February after an ICC delegation said the venue was under-prepared due to a delay in construction work.

A three-member inspection team returned yesterday to assess if enough progress had been made to save three other matches - none featuring India - and were greeted by slogan-chanting fans holding up "Go Back ICC Officials" placards and waving black flags.

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The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), who have headquarters at Eden Gardens, were hopeful of hosting their other three scheduled matches there in March.

"We are confident," said CAB joint secretary Biswarup Dey. "We took them (the ICC team] to the players' area, press box - everything is now ready and there is nothing incomplete."

The three games still due to be held at Eden Gardens are South Africa v Ireland on 15 March, Ireland v Netherlands on 18 March and Kenya v Zimbabwe on 20 March.

Meanwhile, a battered and bruised England flew out of Australia yesterday with skipper Andrew Strauss certain their historic Ashes success had not been tarnished by the heavy one-day international series defeat.

England emphatically sealed the most coveted prize of their three-month tour Down Under when they beat Australia 3-1 in the Ashes.

It was the first time England had won the little urn in Australia for 24 years and they did so with three innings victories.

In the month since that success was sealed in Sydney, however, England have been on the wrong end of a thumping 6-1 one-day international series reverse.

The lop-sided result was partly attributable to a prohibitive run of injuries, with six players forced to leave the tour early during the protracted seven-match series, as the effects of a long tour took hold.

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As a result, England will limp back into Heathrow today and, with just a three-day turnaround before they are due to fly out for the World Cup, needing to assess the extent of their injury woes quickly.

But asked if the end to the tour had tarnished the Ashes memory, Strauss said: "I don't think so. They are two different forms of the game and that Ashes victory was incredibly special and one that we'll savour forever.

"You talk to people out there and they say 'great tour' even though we just lost 6-1.

"We're disappointed with the one-day results but we'll get on to that plane, certainly those who were involved in the Ashes, and be very happy with what we've achieved."

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