Flintoff steps up comeback

England v West Indies
Andrew Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff spends half an hour bowling in practice at Sabina Park in Jamaica

Andrew Flintoff will have to come through tomorrow's practice unscathed before England decide upon his participation in Wednesday's first Test against West Indies.

All-rounder Flintoff was sidelined with a side strain after just one day's action on this Caribbean tour.

Although a scan on his left side last week showed 'no major damage', and things are looking positive, it is not 100% certain that the all-rounder will take his place in Andrew Strauss' first Test match in permanent charge of his country.

"We will see how I rock up tomorrow," said Flintoff. "I feel fine.

"I bowled some overs in St Kitts, bowled some more today but I have still got to get through tomorrow and make sure I am fit going into the first day.

"I am hopeful and providing everything is alright, hopefully I will be fit."

Flintoff will be loath to miss any matches given his luck with injuries over recent years, which have played a significant part in him missing 52 Tests since his debut in 1998.

However, prior to his good progress in the past few days, the tour management team were erring on the side of caution, understandably concerned about worsening the damage at the start of a four-match campaign.

One school of thought is that resting him for one match could guarantee three appearances later on, whereas the equation could turn on its head if he comes back too soon.

"It is a bowling injury which probably no-one wants," said Flintoff, whose international comeback last summer was delayed by a similar strain. "The one main concern with it is that, although on the scan it is fine, there is a risk of aggravating it.

"I have got to prove tomorrow that there is no danger of doing that."

ECBtv speaks to Andrew Flintoff after practice in Jamaica

Flintoff underwent a restrained workout at Sabina Park this morning due to the conditions presented to the tourists.

He spent just five minutes bowling in the nets before the fast bowlers were relocated to the middle due to the liveliness of the surfaces.

The new north stand at the ground which casts a shadow over the three strips - preventing the sun drying the surfaces - caused the restriction.

With the ball flying through off damp patches, it was decided that the batsmen should practise against spinners only with the series opener being so close.

Flintoff then spent 15 minutes bowling at full capacity alongside his fellow pacemen and later, after a bat, spent another seven working with bowling coach Ottis Gibson.

"It is not as if I have been out for five or six weeks, I have missed one three-day game," Flintoff said.

"For the India series I spent a couple of days in Abu Dhabi practising and felt fine.

"I am not concerned about the lack of practice or not being able to come back to match fitness straight away."

If Flintoff does win a 73rd cap, it will be the first time he has played under Strauss, his rival for the captaincy for the 2006-07 Ashes.

Andrew Strauss & Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff is yet to play a Test under Andrew Strauss from whom he took over for the 2006/07 Ashes

England are seeking continuity with Strauss following Kevin Pietersen's demise as captain and Flintoff expects Strauss' style to be more akin to that of Michael Vaughan than Nasser Hussain.

"He's probably wanted to do it for a while, he is a proud man, and he has started well so far," Flintoff said. "I fully expect him to carry on that way.

"He will be more in the Vaughan way than like a Nasser.

"I don't expect him throwing his cap around, kicking the dirt and shaking his head.

"He is a pretty calm character and very calculated in everything he does."

If the prognosis on Flintoff is negative, one possibility would be for 20-year-old Adil Rashid to make his debut.

The inclusion of Rashid, Yorkshire's leg-spinning all-rounder, would retain the balance of six batsmen and five bowling options.

Whatever the make-up of the XI, however, England are confident of extending their recent dominance over West Indies.

"One thing we know playing out here is that you have to play well to beat them," Flintoff added. "They're a decent team and if you are complacent in any way you can get found out with the likes of Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan in their team.

"We are confident of beating them but it is important for us to start well, and play the kind of cricket we know we can do and that we want to play for the next eight or nine months."

Meanwhile, England have discussed the use of the referral system for umpiring decisions in team meetings and how they will apply them, having not previously been involved in the International Cricket Council's technology trial.

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