'Fletcher under immense pressure' - Hussain December 6, 2006

Former captains savage England


Duncan Fletcher has been blasted by several former England legends © Getty Images

Former England captains reacted with dismay at England's spectacular defeat to Australia in the second Test at Adelaide on Tuesday. Duncan Fletcher's team selections came under the microscope, especially his decision to play Ashley Giles ahead of Monty Panesar, who Fletcher hailed as the best finger spinner in the world earlier this year.

A downcast Geoff Boycott, commentating for BBC Radio, feared the upbeat Aussies could "bury" England. "I personally don't think they can pick themselves up," Boycott said. "Australia are cock-a-hoop, they are in good form and are confident.

"The batsmen are making too many mistakes. You can't keep depending on Paul Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell. Andrew Flintoff and Geraint Jones are not making enough runs. And I don't see how England are going to get 20 wickets."

Alec Stewart also said England's bowling attack was under-performing. "Flintoff and Hoggard have caused Australia problems but Steve Harmison has taken one wicket in two Tests while both Giles and Anderson have struggled," Stewart said. "And we are not looking like taking 20 wickets. That is my biggest issue. Harmison has improved slightly but he has only taken one wicket in the series.

Nasser Hussain said Fletcher's men now faced the "biggest test" of his reign. "He will come under the immense pressure in the next week or so," Hussain said, according to London's Evening Standard newspaper. "His selections have let him down and let England down in Giles and Jones. There have been no runs and no wickets and Giles dropped a crucial catch.

Ian Botham insisted Fletcher had to wield the axe ahead of the third Test in Perth, and wondered whether Panesar would finally be deployed. "I am asking questions," Botham said. "A lot of people are asking questions. Is Monty Panesar here or has he gone home? I am totally confused. I was confused at the start of the series and I am even more confused now.

"I am not taking anything away from Australia, they have been magnificent, but we have two players who have hardly played any cricket in a year - Jimmy Anderson and Ashley Giles, two key bowlers."