England selection hinges on Flintoff fitness
According to Andrew Strauss it is tempting to pick Andrew Flintoff for the 4th test, which starts tomorrow at Headingley, even if the indomitable all-rounder is not fully fit. Freddie’s long standing knee injury means he is not certain to play in what is likely to be the pivotal test of the series.
With England 1-0 up in the series, the history of draws at The Oval (the venue for the final test), and the Aussies only needing to draw the series to retain the Ashes, it is critical that England get the selection right tomorrow. We only have to go back last year to the Headingley test against South Africa, where England inexplicably picked Darren Pattinson to replace Paul Collingwood and were duly thrashed by 10 wickets.
The doubts over Flintoff meant England covered all bases in their squad selection adding Jonathan Trott, the Warwickshire batsman, Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Harmison to the XI from Edgbaston. Despite reports in certain media outlets, Trott is not this year’s version of Pattinson. He has been involved with the England Lions and England Academy for a while now, and averages 93 with the bat this season.
If Flintoff, who didn’t look good in nets on Thursday morning, is not fit then England will have to make a big decision. Do they replace Flintoff with Trott and only play four frontline bowlers? Or, will Sidebottom or Harmison come in so England can maintain their five strike attack?
With the first option, which would see Matt Prior dropping down to seven and Graham Swann promoted to eight, England are also likely to replace Stuart Broad with either Sidebottom or Harmison as even the selectors faith in Broad surely won’t extend to playing him as one of four bowlers. The second option would see Broad retained at seven, with the choice of Sidebottom or Harmison being made after a good look at the pitch. Hopefully, Harmison will get the nod, especially as he is a more like for like replacement for Freddie.
If Flintoff is fit then it is likely that the selectors will stick with the XI from Edgbaston, as they are loathe to change a side that is 1-0 up in the series. This could be a mistake as fortune may favour the brave at Headingley especially with Brett Lee and/or Stuart Clark likely to come in for Australia. Broad could do with a rest and Sidebottom or preferably Harmison should come in.
Despite Ravi Bopara’s poor form at three, the selectors will continue to have faith in the Essex batsman and resist the temptation to bring in Trott for what would be his debut.
So, the line-up if Freddie is fit is likely to be unchanged, whilst if ruled out the team will be: Strauss, Cook, Bopara, Bell, Collingwood, Prior, Trott/Broad (probably Broad), Swann, Anderson, Harmison & Onions.
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