Butt demands fielding improvements from Pakistan

BIRMINGHAM, England, (Reuters) – Pakistan must improve  their lacklustre fielding before the third test against England,  captain Salman Butt said yesterday after counting 14 missed  catching chances in the nine-wicket loss at Edgbaston.

Pakistan are now 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.

Regular wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal was omitted after missing  chances in the first test at Trent Bridge and his replacement  Zulqarnain Haider dropped three catches at Edgbaston.

Several of his team mates 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.

Former Pakistan batsman Ijaz Ahmed 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 former physical education teacher Richard  Halsall as a specialist fielding coach while Australia have had  baseball coach Mike Young helping them.

‘CULTURE CHANGE’

South Africa have employed one of the greatest fielders of  all time in their former batsman Jonty Rhodes, and fielding  expert and former Warwickshire player Trevor Penney used to work  with Sri Lanka. Pakistan 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, England captain Andrew Strauss gave unequivocal  support to his opening partner and vice-captain Alastair Cook  who was bowled for four by Mohammad Amir on Monday and has now  failed to reach 30 in his last seven test innings.

Although he scored two centuries on the tour of Bangladesh  in March, when the pitches were slow and did not encourage pace  or spin bowlers, 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.

“I have every confidence he will come back and play some  valuable innings in the near future. He’s a top-quality opening  bat and three or four tests do not change that. I’m not a  selector but he has my full backing because I honestly think a  big score is around the corner.”

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