Fletcher is made scapegoat

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The Independent Online
Ray Illingworth, the chairman of the England selectors, yesterday laid some of the blame for the tourists' disastrous performance in the Ashes series on the manager, Keith Fletcher, and the tour manager, Mike Smith.

Illingworth arrived in Australia last Friday - in time to see England crash to a dismal 92 all out on the final day of the second Test at Melbourne and go 2-0 down in the series. Afterwards he revealed his shock at finding the squad lacklustre despite their stunning defeat of South Africa in August.

"It's amazing to me in two or three months how things have drifted," Illingworth said. "It's very disappointing. "At the end of the summer, I thought we could have taken anybody on."

Illingworth said he was surprised the team did not train yesterday in preparation for the third Test in Sydney on Sunday.

He also said, pointedly, that it is the job of the team's hierarchy to engender fighting spirit. "It's up to our management to gee them up a bit," he said.

"From what I have read and heard in England, I felt that our fielding was poor before the first Test. We allowed slackness to creep in.

"It's not my job to fix up net practices. It's their job and it's up to them to do it. It's their jobs on the line, not mine, if they don't do the business."

Fletcher defended the decision not to train, arguing that a day off would boost morale.

Illingworth, however, backed beleaguered Mike Atherton. "I think he's a good captain who reads the game pretty well, but it's hard for him and he's going to have to gee it up a bit."