Cricket / Second Test: Fletcher's sobering past: Rob Steen reflects on an inspired innings by the England manager facing a tough Test

Click to follow
The Independent Online
'BUY any spares, guv, any spares.' Dismayed by the waning public appetite for potential humiliation, the touts dotted around the Wellington Road yesterday morning made Clement Freud look like Mr Happy. Keith Fletcher's outlook last night was almost as grim.

'We certainly won't be looking to win it from the word go,' said the England team manager, who certainly did not get where he is today by issuing vainglorious predictions. 'If we bat well, we've got a chance, but to win we're going to need two major innings and a few more chipping in. Mind you, because of the outfield, it is very difficult to defend runs at Lord's'

'It's very well poised but I'd rather be in our shoes,' Geoff Howarth, the New Zealand team manager, said. 'It would have been nice to have a couple of wickets in that last hour but we didn't put the ball on the right spot. It was a bit disappointing. The track has been a bit playful at times. One or two have kept down, one or two have gone through the surface. It's a question of how much use we can make of that, of keeping up the pressure. If we bowl well we should win.'

As they left the ground last night, it may be safely assumed that none of the England players were contemplating emulating the antics of one illustrious Kiwi amid similar circumstances at Trent Bridge 21 years ago.

Requiring 479 to win, New Zealand were 402 for 6 when Bruce Taylor arrived at the crease. A quick-fire fifty from the man responsible for one of the fastest of all Test centuries would have done nicely. In the event, however, Taylor was lucky to get as far as 11 and England ultimately won by 38 runs. Taylor, it later transpired, had got completely blotto the previous evening and was blamed for his country's failure to bring off what would have been the most remarkable of Test wins.

Four years later, in the Melbourne centenary Test, Fletcher was a member of the England order that made a spirited dart at Greg Chappell's seemingly token target of 463. With Derek Randall swatting Denis Lillee and company to all parts, England were swanning along at 346 for 4 at one juncture before eventually subsiding for 417. 'We were in a goodish position at tea so we decided to give it a go,' Fletcher reflected yesterday. 'But that was a one-off Test, a special occasion. Had it been part of a series I don't think we would have chanced.' Ah well, another illusion shattered.