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January 2, 2005
Duncan Fletcher was pleased with his team's perseverance after they had lost the toss and were asked to field first on the opening day of the third Test at Newlands. Despite 74 from Graeme Smith and a serene 81 not out from Jacques Kallis, South Africa were restricted to 247 for 4 in the day's 90 overs.
"We're quite happy with our performance on that wicket," said Fletcher. "I think the guys have done a good job, because it's quite a flat track and a fast outfield and it's not offering the bowlers anything. From our point of view, we'd have looked to have scored over 300 if we were only four down on the first day, so it was pleasing to restrict them to around 250. I think if we can restrict them to around 350 or 400 that would be a good effort."
It was a tough ask for England's bowlers to get back out into the field so soon after their victory charge in the second Test was scuppered by bad light, but Fletcher conceded that the conditions here are much more pleasant than at Durban. "I don't think the guys looked too tired at the end of the day, but it's totally different to Durban and it's a lot more pleasant playing cricket here temperature-wise.
"It's not easy and it would have been asking too much if we were playing in Durban today, but you have that cool breeze here which helps. It's difficult to maintain that intensity over two days, but we've played back-to-back Tests in Sri Lanka and that is a hard ask - it's not as hard playing this one."
England's day began with a late selection drama, as Mark Butcher - who had been under pressure for his place - was ruled out at the last minute with a troublesome wrist injury. "He felt a twinge while he was batting in Durban," explained Fletcher. "He saw a doctor yesterday, but when we got on the bus this morning, I thought he was playing." Butcher's place has been taken by Robert Key.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo. He will be following the England team throughout the Test series in South Africa.
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