BIRMINGHAM // Pakistan must improve their lacklustre fielding before the third Test against England, Salman Butt, the captain, said yesterday after counting 14 missed catching chances in the nine-wicket loss at Edgbaston. Pakistan are 2-0 down in the four-match series and Butt realises if they are to salvage a drawn series by winning at The Oval and Lord's, his team will have to start holding on to opportunities.
Kamran Akmal, the wicketkeeper, was omitted for missing chances in the first Test at Trent Bridge and Zulqarnain Haider, his replacement, dropped three catches at Edgbaston. Several of his teammates were also offenders as Kevin Pietersen was missed three times during his innings of 80 that gave England their platform to win. "The guys themselves realise that we need 20 wickets to win a Test match and if we drop 14 catches in a Test it makes it hard to do that," Butt told reporters.
"They were out in the morning working hard but one day is not enough. You need to do that continuously. These 14 include half chances and being professional we need to account for the half chances." There were 10 clear drops. Ijaz Ahmed, the former Pakistan batsman, is part of the team's current backroom staff, officially as an associate coach but with the remit to help the team's fielding. England have Richard Halsall, the former physical education teacher, as a specialist fielding coach while Australia have had Mike Young, the baseball coach, helping them.
South Africa have employed one of the greatest fielders of all time in Jonty Rhodes, their former batsman, while Trevor Penney, the fielding expert, used to work with Sri Lanka. Pakistan, on the other hand, have not considered a specialist. "Ijaz Ahmed was one of the best Pakistan fielders once and he is doing a good job but we need to work hard ourselves," Butt said. "A culture change in one series is virtually impossible. More than myself, the individual needs to understand what has happened and only that will change them."
Meanwhile, Andrew Strauss, the England captain, gave unequivocal support to Alastair Cook, his opening partner and vice-captain, who was bowled for four by Mohammad Aamer yesterday and has now failed to reach 30 in his last seven Test innings. Cook's form could be giving England selectors food for thought ahead of the Ashes series, which starts in November. Cook averages 26 from 10 Tests against Australia. "Opening the batting in Test cricket can be tough at times and when you are down on confidence it can be exploited more than other areas in the batting line-up, but Cooky has played some outstanding innings for England in the past, he's a valuable member of our side," said Strauss.