Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Flintoff to Move Up as Strauss States His Case

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Flintoff to Move Up as Strauss States His Case

Article excerpt


ENGLAND are in a mess, and no mistake. But they can make one positive statement for the future this week by announcing that Andrew Flintoff will bat at No6 in the final Test against South Africa, come what may.

It doesn't sound so very daring and there are altogether tougher shortterm issues to be tackled by the hardpressed selectors before they reveal their squad for next Thursday's mustwin match at The Oval.

But the time has arrived for Flintoff to assume that pivotal position - a responsibility which will become more challenging this winter when Alec Stewart is retired and a new wicketkeeper needs slotting in at seven or eight. A decision over whether to retain Stewart for one more Test shouldn't delay chairman of selectors David Graveney and Co for too long when they meet this evening.

It is not a question of graciously allowing the 40-year-old a farewell performance on his home ground but a case of trying to assemble a side that just might be able to knock South Africa from their perch and level the series at 2-2.

But how to replace broken-toe victim Nasser Hussain, whether to keep Ed Smith on board and what sort of attack to put together (which will depend more on fitness than form) could keep Graveney's panel going for hours before a verdict is delivered around Friday lunchtime.

Graham Thorpe, Andrew Strauss, Rikki Clarke, Richard Johnson, Robert Croft and Gary Keedy are among the faces, old and new, who must be looked at.

Flintoff, though, is ripe for a promotion which could help him to develop into the world's best all-rounder by the time the now 25-year-old is pushing 30.

England coach Duncan Fletcher revealed earlier this week that Flintoff had asked to bat at No5 during this series with South Africa, having enjoyed the extra challenge when moved up for the one-day series.

Fletcher, though, was right to recommend caution because, unlike in the short game, Flintoff is having to bowl considerably more than 10 overs a day at Test level. Even Ian Botham was generally grateful for a breather at No6.

But No7 is now too low for a player who scored two half-centuries during the depressing defeat at Headingley and might have scored more runs but for being left with the tail. …

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