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Fletcher lauds England bowlers' performance on placid pitch
by AFP


Ground:Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad
Event:England in Pakistan 2005/06

England coach Duncan Fletcher was all praise for his bowlers on Sunday, saying they stuck to their task on a flat track in the second Test against Pakistan here.

"From our point of view, it would have been good to win the toss," said Fletcher.

"We did not win a crucial toss and I think that is seven out of eight against Pakistan at international level, but I must give credit to the bowlers who stuck to their task."

Pakistan, leading 1-0 in the three-match series following their victory in the opening Test at Multan, scored 300-4 in their first innings at stumps on the opening day after winning the toss and electing to bat.

A belligerent 67 not out by all-rounder Shahid Afridi lit up the day for the hosts. Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq made an attractive unbeaten 80 and Mohammad Yousuf a solid 78.

England's bowlers nearly neutralised Pakistan's advantage by grabbing three wickets for 73 runs in the first session, before a fourth-wicket stand of 128 between Inzamam and Yousuf brought the hosts back into the game.

Inzamam then added 99 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand with Afridi.

Fletcher described the day as "difficult" for his team.

"It was a difficult day, but in the end you have got to give credit to the bowlers who bowled well on a wicket like that. We had them in a little trouble at one stage," said Fletcher, a former Zimbabwean captain.

He praised Pakistan's batsmen for building two good stands.

"The Pakistani batsmen did well by putting up two good partnerships," Fletcher said, adding he hoped his side would hit back on the second day on Monday.

"We have to go out and carry on the way we always do. I believe we showed the same manner and intent as in other Tests and would bounce back," he said.

Pakistani middle-order batsman Afridi said he played his natural game and was not given any instructions to hit out.

"I played my normal game and ball was coming on to the bat nicely. So it was great," said Afridi, who replaced Hasan Raza from Pakistan's first Test line-up.

Afridi, who holds the world record of fastest one-day hundred off just 37 balls against Sri Lanka at Nairobi, Kenya in 1997, completed his half-century off just 46 balls with three sixes and four boundaries.

When asked in a light vein whether he would bat defensively if offered one million dollars, he said: "May be. But this is my normal style of batting."

Afridi said he would put the team's interests before his personal milestone on Monday.

"My aim will be to help the team put up 450 rather than thinking of my century," said Afridi, who scored his third Test hundred in the West Indies in May this year.

(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP) spacer

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