South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day January 5, 2005

'It's up to individuals to show more patience'

Fletcher: sour-faced © Getty Images
As if England's impending defeat was not enough to dampen the spirits in the dressing-room, the news that Andrew Flintoff was suffering from "discomfort in his left side" was the last thing they needed. Add to that a freak injury in the nets for Matthew Hoggard, and it all made for a sour-faced press conference from England's coach, Duncan Fletcher.

As a precaution, Hoggard did not bowl after being struck on the back of the heel in the morning practice session, but it was later revealed to be no more serious than soft tissue bruising. Flintoff's problem, however, is more serious and will have to wait until the morning until its full extent is unveiled. He was checked by a doctor after lasting just 45 minutes in the field this morning, but Fletcher remained optimistic that all would be fine.

Less fine, however, is England's match situation. They finished the day on 151 for 5, with just Graham Thorpe of the specialist batsmen remaining. And once again, Fletcher's rage was communicated in his peculiarly pent-up manner, as he chastised some of his players for their "soft" dismissals. "We turned it around at Durban," he said, "but it's up to individuals to show more patience. Some of the batters wanted to play attacking cricket."

Fletcher brushed aside criticism of Michael Vaughan's form: he has managed just 84 runs in the series so far. "It was the same with Nasser [Hussain]," he shrugged. "We see him as an allrounder as he's captained the side well, and I'm sure he'll get runs soon." But he did suggest that his team ought to have learned from the example set by the home boy, Jacques Kallis, one of Fletcher's own charges during his time as coach of Western Province.

"Kallis sometimes gets criticised by his own people," said Fletcher, "but with the amount of times he's played here, he knows it's not an easy wicket. It can lull you into a false sense of security. It's very slow, but then one bounces on you, and if you're playing a shot you're in trouble. You've got to concentrate as much as on a wicket that is zipping around."

South Africa have had no such problems about learning from their mistakes, however, as Shaun Pollock was proud to point out. "You're bound to make mistakes in Test cricket," he said. "It's how you react to them and learn from them that counts, and I think we've learned well. We weren't very good at Port Elizabeth, nowhere near where we needed to be, but we've responded well to that."

After letting England off the hook in the second innings at Durban, Pollock was cagey about predicting victory tomorrow, but he admitted he would be "very, very disappointed" if England got away again. "We've bowled well as a unit and we've got the big five out, but now we've got to push the advantage home."

"Hanging on in Durban gave us momentum," said Pollock, who added that winning the toss and sticking England back out in the sun just two days after that game had worked in their favour. "Graeme [Smith's] been superb with the toss. I've been there as well, and to be back in the field after a long bowling session, mentally it works on mind and plays on body. The way we've gone about it is bearing fruit."

"To have been 2-0 behind here would be a big ask. But the new ball's due, the guys fresh, and after a good night's rest, we'll make the new ball work in the morning."

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo. He will be following England on their tour of South Africa