Fletcher lays blame for England failure on naïve bowling

Fourth Test: Coach concedes attack cracked under pressure in decisive morning session to gift South Africa advantage
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The Independent Online

The England coach Duncan Fletcher admitted last night that his fledgling attack, in a wayward two hours yesterday morning, have probably cost England the series against South Africa.

"We didn't bowl well," he said. "These guys lacked the experience to put the ball in the right areas. We have lacked a banker bowler since Andy Caddick retired and for some of these guys, playing before a big crowd, playing for the country, it was pressure they had not known. It was mental, rather than physical or technical.

"We realised we had a good chance of knocking them over for 250 or 300. But through inexperience we just did not put the ball in the areas we needed to - and Andrew Hall batted exceptionally well.

"Everybody knew what they were supposed to be trying to do out, but sometimes the harder you try the more it does not seem to land in the zones you want."

Fletcher revealed that Martin Bicknell, recalled after 10 years to give the attack some experience, has been suffering from a tight hamstring and James Kirtley, making his second Test appearance, has sore shins.

Certainly England's brave new world of bright young things were looking distinctly pasty-faced and middle-aged yesterday evening. Twice they seemed to have this vital Test under control; thrice they have let South Africa off the hook. The last three wickets in each inning raised 200 and 146 runs respectively. When England were dominating the bowling, on Friday, they went off for bad light and gave South Africa the reprieve. Michael Vaughan, like the Grand old Duke of York, had twice marched his men to the top of the hill, then marched them down again.

There were other excuses. On BBC radio former England batsmen were raking the pitch. "If Yorkshire are spending £25m on Headingley they need to spend a million of that on the square" said Graeme Fowler. Former England bowlers, were more charitable: "Unpredictable, but not dangerous" was the consensus.

Perhaps we should look for heroes rather than villains and praise South Africa for their ferocious application. Even when England were 95 for 5 and seemingly without hope of surviving, South Africa were still hurtling around the boundary and diving at the ropes to turn fours into threes. They will win this match with only three front-line bowlers and the biggest hearts in world cricket.

Hall, the brilliant all-rounder omitted from the original touring party, missed a maiden Test century when he was left stranded on 99, but said his task had been made easier by the English bowlers.

"They were not as disciplined compared to other days," he said. "We seemed to get a lot of really full or short balls and they are easy to score off. I got a lot of half-volleys, and that makes it easier, especially on a pitch which is not always bouncing evenly.

"Sure, it was a disappointment but there will be other chances," he said. "The team's success comes first. We aimed for a lead of 350 and bettered that. England bowled too many short balls and four balls. But the two guys who are in are capable of big scores. We still have some hard work to do. The pitch is difficult when the ball hits a divot."


South Africa won toss

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings 342 (G Kirsten 130, M Zondeki 59, J A Rudolph 55)

ENGLAND - First Innings (Friday: 197 for 3)
N Hussain c and b Rudolph 42
E T Smith c Boucher b Kallis 0
A J Stewart c Hall b Pretorius 15
A Flintoff b Ntini 55
M P Bicknell b Ntini 4
Kabir Ali c Boucher b Hall 1
R J Kirtley c Boucher b Ntini 1
J M Anderson not out 0
Extras (b2 lb17 w6 nb13) 38
Total (387 min, 87.2 overs) 307

Fall (cont): 4-197 (Smith); 5-239 (Stewart), 6-261 (Hussain), 7-289 (Bicknell), 8-293 (Ali), 9-307 (Kirtley)

Bowling: Pretorius 19-1-100-1 (nb8, w2) (2-0-18-0, 4-0-19-0, 3-0-21-0, 10-1-42-1); Ntini 20.2-4-62-3 (nb3) (7-2-10-1, 1-0-3-0, 4-1-21-0, 5-1-10-0, 3.2-0-18-2); Hall 24-3-77-2 (w1) (7-1-23-0, 4-0-18-0, 9-2-25-0, 4-0-11-2); Zondeki 1.5-0-10-0 (nb1) (one spell); Kallis 20.1-7-38-3 (nb1, w3) (5.1-1-13-0, 13-5-18-3, 2-1-7-0); Rudolph 2-1-1-1 (one spell).

SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings
G C Smith lbw b Bicknell 14
H H Gibbs lbw b Kirtley 2
G Kirsten lbw b Kabir Ali 60
J H Kallis c Stewart b Kirtley 41
N D McKenzie c Bicknell b Flintoff 38
J A Rudolph c Smith b Anderson 10
M V Boucher c Stewart b Flintoff 39
A J Hall not out 99
M Zondeki b Bicknell 7
M Ntini lbw b Kabir Ali 8
D Pretorius b Kirtley 8
Extras (b7, lb24, nb8) 39
Total (449 min, 100.5 overs) 365

Fall: 1-9 (Gibbs), 2-31 (Smith), 3-128 (Kallis), 4-139 (Kirsten), 5-160 (Rudolph), 6-219 (McKenzie), 7-232 (Boucher), 8-281 (Zondeki), 9-311 (Ntini).

Bowling: Kirtley 21.5-7-71-3 (nb1) (6-2-21-1, 8-4-7-1, 3-1-12-0, 3-0-14-0, 1.5-0-17-1); Bicknell 22-3-75-2 (nb1) (7-0-16-1, 1-0-2-0, 5-1-18-0, 4-0-17-0, 5-2-22-1); Flintoff 22-5-63-2 (nb4) (1-0-1-0, 2-2-0-0, 7-1-19-0, 8-2-21-2, 4-0-22-0); Anderson 16-4-56-1 (7-1-17-0, 4-3-8-1, 5-0-31-0); Kabir Ali 14-2-56-2 (nb1) (3-0-14-0, 4-1-10-1, 7-1-32-1); Vaughan 5-1-13-0 (nb1) (one spell).

Progress: Third day: 50: 73 min , 16.5 overs. Tea: 53-2 (Kirsten 21, Kallis 10) 20 overs. 100: 141 min , 33.2 overs. 150: 241 min , 55.1 overs. Close: 164-5 (McKenzie 17, Boucher 2) 62 overs. Fourth day: 200: 308 min , 70.2 overs. 250: 351 min , 79 overs. New ball: taken after 80 overs at 252-7. Lunch: 293-8 (Hall 46, Ntini 1) 88 overs. 300: 400 min , 89.4 overs. 350: 442 min , 98.3 overs. Innings closed: 2.22pm.

Kirsten 50: 113 min, 110 balls, 5 fours.

Hall 50: 82 min, 53 balls, 10 fours.

ENGLAND - Second innings
M E Trescothick c Gibbs b Ntini 4
M P Vaughan c Gibbs b Kallis 21
M A Butcher not out 57
N Hussain lbw b Kallis 6
E T Smith c Smith b Hall 7
A J Stewart c Boucher b Ntini 7
A Flintoff not out 45
Extras (lb9, w2, nb7) 18
Total (for 5, 220 min , 50 overs) 165

Fall: 1-11 (Trescothick), 2-44 (Vaughan), 3-62 (Hussain), 4-81 (Smith), 5-95 (Stewart).

Bowling: Ntini 11-2-40-2 (nb4) (7-2-22-1, 4-0-18-1); Hall 16-2-41-1 (w1) (6-0-13-0, 5-0-13-1, 5-2-15-0); Pretorius 9-3-27-0 (6-1-18-0, 3-2-9-0); Kallis 11-2-33-2 (9-2-20-2, 2-0-13-0); Zondeki 3-0-15-0 (one spell).

Progress: Fourth day: Tea: 39-1 (Vaughan 20, Butcher 7) 12 overs. 50: 76 min, 17.4 overs. 100: 156 min, 35.1 overs. 150: 205 min, 46.1 overs.

Butcher 50: 154 min, 107 balls, 5 fours.

Umpires: B F Bowden (New Zealand) and S J A Taufel (Australia).