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Timid stance of Fletcher blamed for draw at Lords

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Fletcher

Ian Botham has blamed England coach Duncan Fletcher for his “timid” approach which the former Test star believes led to a drawn match against Pakistan here at Lord’s earlier this week.

A British newspaper quoted Botham as saying on Wednesday that Fletcher was responsible for a delayed declaration on the final day of the opening Test that helped Pakistan manage a draw.

“England missed a real chance to go 1-0 up against Pakistan at Lord’s because of a timid declaration- with coach Duncan Fletcher’s fingerprints on the calculator,” said Botham.

The former England skipper said Fletcher had done a good job for England but he is too cautious at times. “Don’t get me wrong, Fletcher has been a vital, steadying influence on England’s improved Test fortunes since he took over in 1999, and his overall contribution is well in credit.”

Added the out-spoken Botham: “By nature he errs on the side of caution over things like the timing of declarations, but at Lord’s he took caution too far. For four days, England did almost everything right by making a big total, scrapping hard for a first-innings lead and then building what should have been a match-winning advantage.

“But they simply didn’t give themselves enough time to bowl out Pakistan a second time. That game was a wasted opportunity, and I suspect Duncan had as much to do with the final equation as acting captain Andrew Strauss.”

Botham was also critical at the slow pace at which England batsmen batted towards the end of their second innings. “Our batting lacked urgency in the last hour on Sunday and why on earth we wasted eight overs on the final morning batting on when we had 340 runs to play with, I’ll never know.”

He felt the England bowlers needed at least two new balls to bowl Pakistan out. “Against a batting line-up of Pakistan’s depth and quality, you need the option of two new balls - more than 80 overs — particularly with just four specialist bowlers in the side.

“England should have been looking to give them a sticky 20 minutes on the fourth evening, not a get out-of-jail card on the final morning.”

Botham also rued the fact that Pakistan were not even playing with their best line-up owing to injuries to their key players. “Pakistan were below strength. There was no Shoaib Akhtar, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Asif or Younis Khan. England laid the ground work to take an early lead in the series, but just when they should have pushed for victory they went into their shell.”

He urged England to believe in themselves just like they did when they beat Australia in the Ashes last summer. “Despite injuries to a few key players, this is still essentially the team that won the Ashes, and it’s time we started to believe in ourselves — and in our bowlers - a bit more. Yes, times have changed and a fourth-innings target of 300- plus is no longer regarded as a mission impossible, but the Aussies would back themselves to defend that sort of total on a wearing pitch every time. Since going 2-1 up in the Ashes, England have had a first-innings lead in seven of 11 Tests, but — often by being too cautious - won just two of them.”

He added: “If winning the Ashes taught us anything, surely it was that fortune favours the brave in Test cricket — but instead of seizing the moment as we did under Michael Vaughan, England seem to be seizing up.”

Botham, who is commentating on the Test series for a British sports channel, was displeased with the fact that Pakistan managed to get away with a draw. “Pakistan were delighted to settle for the draw — and no wonder. England made all the running, Strauss did an excellent job with imaginative field placings, bowling changes and a century before negativity crept in, our batsmen scored four hundreds between them, Monty Panesar again looked like our best left-arm spinner since Derek Underwood and Geraint Jones had a very good match behind the stumps, if not with the bat.

“Freddie Flintoff will be back for Old Trafford next week, but instead of sitting and waiting for him to carry them the extra yard, England should have made the most of a golden opportunity,” Botham reckoned.

Source:The News

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