Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England Time-Out Can Pay Dividends

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England Time-Out Can Pay Dividends

Article excerpt

Byline: By Myles Hodgson

Duncan Fletcher is hopes his decision to grant England's players time off will help them focus solely on playing cricket for the rest of the controversial tour of Zimbabwe.

England's coach was concerned about several aspects of his side's display in the opening victory at the Harare Sports Club on Sunday, particularly the way they bowled at the start of the match and also the manner in which they lost four wickets in 12 overs as they closed in on the five-wicket win.

Captain Michael Vaughan believed their nervous display could have been caused by the unusual build-up to the opening game, when they were locked in meetings deliberating the pros and cons of continuing with the tour following the media dispute with the Zimbabwe government.

The tourists also feared demonstrations marring the opening match while there were private concerns that senior members of President Robert Mugabe's government may use the match for political gain.

In fact, the match passed off without incident but Fletcher still gave the squad an afternoon off ( a vindicated by an impressive practice session yesterday morning.

"It was very important for them to relax yesterday," stressed Fletcher. "We've been sitting in a hotel in Johannesburg and we've got the same thing here when we just go to the cricket ground and then back to the hotel.

"It was important they got out in big groups and relaxed for half a day because you have to look at the mental side of it.

"We've come here to play cricket, but you still have to prepare in the right manner to win a cricket match and if that preparation is going out in groups to relax then we have to do it."

Fletcher is convinced that England's uncertain performance was a hangover from the build-up to the tour and, despite efforts by the management team to ensure the squad concentrated on the game, several players looked distracted during the opening match. …

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