Fletcher hopes dropped catches a thing of past

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:England coach Duncan Fletcher has said he hopes the poor fielding display his side displayed that allowed Sri Lanka to stage one of the great escapes of Test cricket will not be repeated.

Sri Lanka survived for 199 overs of the Lord's Test to salvage an unexpected draw, and their rearguard action was aided by England dropping nine catches, including misses by normally reliable fielders like stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff, Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood.

Their under-par display, in stark contrast to some of their fielding and catching during last summer's Ashes series and the winter tours to Pakistan and India, could be interpreted as a worrying sign.

But Fletcher was philosophical: "It's pretty frustrating we couldn't finish them off - you have to say we didn't win it because we dropped too many catches and if we'd have held those catches it would probably have been a totally different story.

"You can probably afford to drop one or two catches, but we got on a run with it and that cost us the Test.

"It was very disappointing but the guys didn't mean to drop the catches and we didn't change our practices, we did the same routines and they caught very, very well.

Fletcher remains convinced the under-par fielding display can be dismissed as another Lord's off-day following a similar display against Australia last summer, when a series of dropped catches condemned England to a 239-runs defeat in the opening Test.

At least this time the dropped catches did not result in defeat and Fletcher stressed: "It doesn't happen often, but we do have off-days and the couple of occasions it has happened before have also been at Lord's.

"I think you just drop a couple early on and then you get on a run and I've seen that happen to other teams.

We're not going to give excuses for it. It's difficult to say why it is and I don't think the fielders have said why, but it does seem to happen at Lord's.

"We caught very, very well in the winter in foreign conditions so you've got to put the catching at Lord's down to the fact sometimes things like that just happen.

"When you drop nine catches it means we had to bowl a side out nearly three times and that would always be difficult to do on a wicket that didn't really help the seamers."

But one of the consequences of those dropped catches was the amount of time England spent in the field and the number of overs the bowlers got through in their attempts to break Sri Lanka's resistance.

All-rounder Flintoff, whose workload is being carefully monitored by Fletcher since he has stood in as captain for the injured Michael Vaughan, once again led from the front and delivered 51 exhausting overs.

Yorkshire seamer Matthew Hoggard was not far behind his captain with 46 overs while both Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood contributed over 30 overs.

Their workload at Lord's has prompted Fletcher to rest the entire first Test line-up from domestic competition this week and give them a proper break before the first of two back-to-back Tests, which starts at Edgbaston on May 25.

Fletcher added: "The bowlers did bowl a lot of overs and that was one thing we considered when we put them into bat again, but what else could we do?

"There was a lot of cricket to be played there and hopefully they will have a good break before the next Test."

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