Cricket: Fletcher's frustration

Glamorgan 101 and 84 Surrey 309 Surrey win by inns and 124 runs
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The Independent Online
A LESSER man would have thrown in the towel - and both his hats. Duncan Fletcher's two are certainly looking a little the worse for wear. On the day England, who come under his charge at the end of the season, were doing less than well at Old Trafford, his county team Glamorgan were completing their capitulation inside two days against the championship leaders Surrey.

Fletcher spent 45 minutes locked in the dressing room with his players before announcing that he has scheduled a practice session for his badly beaten team for 10 o'clock tomorrow morning; after which he has to head north where, as England coach designate, he will catch up on the latest with the national side.

"After what we did against Durham [a battling victory] to come here and then go in two days is not an enjoyable experience," said the Zimbabwean. Fletcher is under increasing pressure to spend time with England and he said he intends going to Old Trafford after that practice session with Glamorgan. But he is clearly torn. "It's no use me abandoning them [Glamorgan] when things go wrong. It is more important for me to stick with them. It is no use chopping and changing."

Even so, putting his finger on Glamorgan's appalling form this season was beyond him. All he could do was point to the fact that the ball swung on the first day and the pitch seamed throughout. He also gave credit to Surrey's bowlers, in particular Martin Bicknell and Ben Hollioake.

He should also have brought Saqlain Mushtaq into the equation. The Pakistan Test off-spinner's wizardry yesterday earned him his fifth five-wicket haul of the summer (he now has 33 wickets in four matches).

But the overall impression was that Glamorgan came out with flags of surrender fluttering, rather than guns blazing, however much conditions helped the Surrey cause. After all, Alistair Brown looked reasonably comfortable as he took his overnight 60 to the 21st hundred of his career as he and Bicknell, who passed 50 for the second time this year, helped Surrey accumulate a sizeable first innings lead with a 99-run stand for the eighth wicket.

The fact that a total of 16 wickets fell on the first day and another 13 yesterday should not endanger Surrey's lead at the top of the table. Umpire Ray Julian duly reported the track to the England and Wales Cricket Board's inspector of pitches Harry Brind, but it is unlikely that the Surrey groundsman Paul Brind will worry over much, because apparently Julian said to him: "I've told your father to come down and have a look at a good pitch."

Glamorgan suffered the loss of Steve Watkin with a cricked neck, but then Surrey were without their England batting trio and fast bowler Alex Tudor. They also lost wicketkeeper Jon Batty, who had to retire hurt after getting a lifter in his face which caused a fractured cheekbone. Jamie Knott, son of Alan, will step up from the Seconds to take over from Batty, at least until Alec Stewart is available. A first championship since 1971 grows ever more likely thanks to the stand-ins.

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