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May 15, 2006
Andrew Flintoff admitted that England's lapses in the field had made the difference, as Sri Lanka batted out the last two-and-a-half days to secure a remarkable draw in the first Test at Lord's. But he was not allowing the disappointment to dent his enthusiasm after a hard-fought match, and insisted that England were all set to win the series.
"It's quite bizarre, but I'm not going to make an issue of it," he said, after England had shelled at least nine clear-cut chances in the course of Sri Lanka's two innings. "You see the lads in practice and you know how hard we work. We're a good catching unit, and we've taken a lot of chances over the last two or three years.
"It's just one of those things," he added. "I dropped one at slip and I'm not the worst standing there. I saw it all the way, but it hit the wrong part of my hand and just fell out. I'm not making excuses, but it'll be put down to experience. If it happens every week then we'll take a look and identify it."
Flintoff himself got through an alarming number of overs in the match - 68.8, including 51 in the second innings alone. "I've got a few miles in my legs," he conceded. "But it's the first game of the summer and the first time I've bowled. It's the exception rather than the norm, and I don't envisage doing that next week, but it was something dictated by the state of the game."
It was a bit of a comedown for England's new captain after the heady scenes at Mumbai in March, but he refused to be despondent. "It was tough, but not so much from a captaincy point of view," he insisted. "As captain I did what I thought was best and went with instincts. You place your fielders, and you bowl where you think will take wickets or stop runs. It's tough, but I'm enjoying doing it."
Flintoff preferred to reflect on the positives of the match, in particular the performance of the new guys in the side. "Alastair [Cook, who made 89] was fantastic, Sajid [Mahmood] turned the game on its head, and Liam Plunkett bowled really nicely once he settled down and got into the rhythm."
One man who was underused in England's attack was the spinner, Monty Panesar, but Flintoff defended his decision to stick with the seamers. "We saw Murali bowl a lot of overs without any success because there wasn't much spin. Monty bowled really well but I thought the best way to take wickets was with the seamers, they looked threatening."
"The mood in the dressing-room is great," he added. "They are a good bunch of lads, and though we'd have liked to come out with a win there are a lot of positives. Some young bowlers have come in and performed well on the big stage, and the batters are firing.
"We know Sri Lanka can fight, we've seen it before. They came out and applied themselves in the second innings, but if we'd held our catches we'd have won the game. There's no need for doom and gloom, we're doing alright."
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