Fletcher praises attack after 'difficult' day
Duncan Fletcher praised his bowlers' discipline as England endured a tough first day of the second Test at Faisalabad. After losing the toss on a glorious batting track, England maintained their resolve for two sessions, before Shahid Afridi and Inzamam-ul-Haq cut loose against a tiring attack, adding 111 in 21 overs after tea.
Afridi was at the forefront of the assault, reaching the close unbeaten on 67 from 62 balls, with five fours and four sixes, but England's day could have been very different if Michael Vaughan, at short cover, had clung onto a miscued drive when Afridi had made just 34.
"We've taken some very good catches in the first Test and somewhere along the line we're going to drop one," said a phlegmatic Fletcher afterwards. "It's unfortunate, but now and again a catch will go down."
"It's been a difficult day but at the end of the day you've got to give credit to the bowlers," he added. "They stuck to their task on a wicket like that. We had them in a little trouble at one stage but credit to two batters who batted well and put up a good partnership."
After losing the first Test in dramatic circumstances on the final morning, England desperately needed to have luck on their side. Instead, Vaughan lost an important toss to condemn England to a long day of hard labour in the field.
"It's unfortunate but we've got to get on with it," added Fletcher. "We went out and carried on the way we've always played. I believe we showed the same manner and intent as in all our other Tests."
England's problems were exacerbated by a muted performance from their senior spinner, Ashley Giles. His ten overs were dispatched for 53 runs as none of the Pakistani batsmen allowed him to settle. "It's difficult to stick to some plans when the wicket is so flat," explained Fletcher. "There's a huge favour facing the batters."
"The ball's hardly spun, and even Shane [sic] Udal has struggled to spin it," he added in defence of Giles, who came into the match with a long-standing hip problem. "At the end of the day if you're spinning it away and giving the batsman a little bit of room on a wicket that's not turning, a little bit easier to face that sort of spinner."
England's brightest moment came when the part-time medium-pacer, Ian Bell, swooped in his followthrough to pluck a remarkable one-handed return catch. It was his first Test wicket - and only his 42nd in all first-class cricket - and it brought to an end a fine innings of 78 from Mohammad Yousuf.
"Bell did very very well," said Fletcher, who had used Paul Collingwood in a similar holding role in the first Test. "If it doesn't turn on the first few days, then asking the three big guys to do all the work is a big effort. We needed that fourth individual. Belly's done it before, and he also offers an option that takes pace off the ball and so gives variation."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo