'The wicket is not offering anything, the bowlers have done a good job'

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The Independent Online

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, yesterday praised the resilience of his bowlers after they shrugged off the effects of back-to-back Tests to restrict South Africa's scoring rate in the third Test here in Cape Town.

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, yesterday praised the resilience of his bowlers after they shrugged off the effects of back-to-back Tests to restrict South Africa's scoring rate in the third Test here in Cape Town.

England produced a determined and disciplined display to limit the home side to a respectable but far from commanding 247 for 4 after only two days' rest following the previous Test in Durban.

Bowling to defensive fields for most of the afternoon session, England shackled South Africa so successfully they were limited to only 23 boundaries. Fletcher said: "We're quite happy with our performance on that wicket because it's not offering the bowlers anything, it's quite a flat track and a fast outfield, and I think the guys have done a good job.

"They've got quite a strong batting line-up and there wasn't much swing apart from the first four or five overs as well, and everything seemed to be in the batters' favour - it was nice to see Michael Vaughan set some plans and the bowlers bowl to those plans.

"From our point of view, we'd have looked to have scored over 300 if we were only four-down on the first day," Fletcher added, "so it was pleasing to restrict them to around 250 and I think if we can restrict them to around 350 or 400 that would be a good effort."

Fletcher was particularly impressed with England's stamina after the side had battled in energy-sapping heat in Durban tocome near to victory. "From what I saw there, they stood up well," he said. "I don't think the guys looked too tired at the end of the day, but it's totally different to Durban and it's a lot more pleasant playing cricket here, temperature-wise.

"It's not easy and it would have been asking too much if we were playing in Durban today, but you have that cool breeze here which helps. It's difficult to maintain that intensity, but it's not as bad as we've been in Sri Lanka when we've played back-to-back Tests there."

England's display followed a dramatic start to the Test with Mark Butcher withdrawing with a left wrist injury on the morning of the match, allowing Kent's Robert Key in to start his first match since a one-day game at the beginning of last month.

Butcher, who was under pressure to keep his place anyway after failing to score a century in 17 Tests, first felt the injury during sessions in the gym when the squad assembled in Johannesburg last month and experienced further twinges while batting in the previous Test.

"It's not exactly the start to the year I wanted after the injuries I had last year," Butcher said. "I picked it up in the gym at the start of the tour and felt a twinge in Durban and it's got steadily worse.

"I've had a cortisone injection to relieve the pain and I'm hopeful of being fit for the fourth Test. At least the break of six days between the end of this and the start of that gives me more of a chance to recover."

South Africa were also satisfied with their display, but their captain Graeme Smith knows his side have to build on the solid foundations they have laid.

"It's a reasonably good day," said Smith, who hit 74. "It's not so easy to score quickly on and if you bowl in good areas it's hard to get away and they were quite defensive in the afternoon.

"It's a very good day and if we do well tomorrow we might see the English showing a bit of wear and tear from Durban."

South Africa's hopes of achieving that could rest with Jacques Kallis, who resumes just 19 runs adrift of another century.

"He sets high standards for himself," Smith said. "He doesn't get the accolades that [Brian] Lara and and [Sachin] Tendulkar get, but certainly he's up there with them.

"His performances over the last year and a half have been unbelievable and, hopefully, he can carry it onand we can start building a lot more big scores around him. He's been superb again today and, hopefully, he can go on and get a big one tomorrow."

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