England have chance to square series: Fletcher

MUMBAI — Coach Duncan Fletcher believes England have a good chance of winning the final test against India and squaring the series.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Wed 22 Mar 2006, 10:54 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:32 PM

“I’d rather be in our changing room than their changing room at this stage,” he told a news conference yesterday after the touring side set India a challenging target of 313.

India were 18-1 at stumps on the fourth day of the third test. “You’re always confident. From our point of view, we appreciate that it is difficult to bowl them out,” Fletcher said.

“And it is going to take a lot of hard work but we still believe we can go out there and do the job.”

Andrew Flintoff’s gritty half century helped England reach 191 in their second innings after the Indian spin duo of Anil Kumble (4-49) and Harbhajan Singh (2-40) kept the pressure on.

“It was pretty tough — we just feel that the wicket got a little harder to play on. Speaking to the batters they said it was difficult to score runs,” the coach said. Fletcher said the fall of wickets at regular intervals prevented England from forcing the pace.

“We would obviously have liked to, but every time we started to go we lost a wicket.

“It was crucial that we get a partnership going and try and keep wickets in hands so that we can accelerate in the backend,” he said, referring to Flintoff’s 66-run sixth wicket stand with Paul Collingwood (32) that rescued the team from 85-5.

England had hoped to set a target of 350-360 with 120 overs in hand, according to the coach. “But ... you can’t go in with a set game plan and that has to change along the way.

“We just kept losing wickets at vital times. It was a target that we considered all along, but those targets were changed as we went through the day.”

Fletcher said a lot of playing time in the subcontinent had helped his players handle spin with more assurance.

“They have just got better with experience, there were quality spinners out there today, and they had to work very hard to get their wickets. “Okay we couldn’t score off them freely, but previously all the players would have struggled against quality spinners like that.”

Fletcher said Flintoff scoring four successive fifties at crucial stages of the series did not surprise him.

“I mean, he has put in performances over the last two years that have been outstanding. He has got better and better.

“He is a very, very good cricketer. And very, very good cricketers put in performances like that.”

The coach also felt Flintoff had borne the additional responsibility of captaincy superbly after Michael Vaughan and vice-captain Marcus Trescothick returned home. “He has captained the side very well under trying conditions. I mean, we lost another player (opener) Alastair Cook at the start of the match, we lost (fast bowler) Steve Harmison for this test match.

“He has been really tested, it shows he has taken on that responsibility very, very well.”

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