Fielding not Freddie behind shock draw: Strauss

Published: Friday, May 19, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Andrew Strauss has insisted it was England's fielding not the captaincy of Andrew Flintoff which cost the home side the chance of going 1-0 up in their three-Test series against Sri Lanka.

Despite being made to follow-on at Lord's, the tourists - who saw captain Mahela Jayawardene lead their resistance with a second innings century - batted for over 14 hours to ensure that the series opener ended in stalemate.

But they were helped on their way by a shoddy England display, which saw nine catches in all dropped during the course of the match.

And England opening batsman Strauss said it was their fallible fielding and not the leadership of Flintoff, who was criticised in some quarters for unimaginative field tactics on Monday's final day, that meant the side were heading into next week's second Test at Edgbaston still all square.

"The slip fielding aspect of last week was very disappointing from our point of view," said Strauss.

"In the end we had 28 chances to take 20 wickets and we didn't do it," he added after becoming the president of the junior section of the Primary Club, a cricketers' charity which assists blind players and whose membership is largely drawn from players who've been out first ball in any form of the game.

"From my point of view, the two I dropped I saw all the way in and I suppose I misjudged the pace of them," said Strauss who last year took a superb diving slip-catch to dismiss Australia's Adam Gilchrist in the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.

"We take pride in taking a high proportion of all our catches and it is something we have to keep working on," the Middlesex left-hander added.

"To dwell on it too long would be wrong, though, because the nuts and bolts of the game - the batting and the bowling - were in brilliant shape," explained Strauss, speaking at The Oval on Thursday.

"Life goes on. You have got to look forward. You can't start thinking about chucking balls around your house, trying to catch them all week, because that is not going to be productive."

Meanwhile Strauss, 29, defended the tactics of Flintoff, deputising for the injured Michael Vaughan, after the Lancashire all-rounder was criticised for over-bowling himself (Flintoff sent down more than 50 overs in Sri Lanka's second innings), and under-utilising left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

"Part of being a team is that we do things collectively - we take the glory collectively and if we have any down-times we take those collectively as well.

"Times like that last day at Lord's can act as a spur to get back out there and perform at your best and that is how we are going to look at it.

"It is up to me and other senior players to come up with ideas and help him out," said Strauss ahead of England's second Test squad announcement on Sunday.

"The fact of the matter is he (Flintoff) did a brilliant job in India (England drew the three-Test series 1-1) and proved more than capable as captain of the side, even if he was bowling.

"Although we didn't finish the (Sri Lanka) game off, and he did bowl a lot of overs, he was still very good at communicating with the guys and trying to get the best out of the players.

"He deserves a lot of credit for bowling the number of overs he did and bowling as well as he did. To focus too much on his bowling is missing out on the main point. If we had taken our chances we would have won that game long before the end."

The second Test is due to start at Edgbaston on Thursday, May 25.

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