Three is the magic number

Andrew Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff made a quickfire 59 in England's only warm-up game © Getty Images

England captain Andrew Flintoff will bat at number three in the ICC Champions Trophy - something which may become a long-term strategy in one-day cricket.

Flintoff, who will win his 100th cap against hosts India on Sunday, belted 59 from first wicket down in the sole warm-up match against a Rajasthan XI on Thursday.

The 28-year-old has featured in the position seven times previously in his international career with limited success, initially for four matches in the 2000 NatWest Series and also in three isolated instances since.

With Marcus Trescothick absent, coach Duncan Fletcher is keen to include a powerful strokemaker at the start of their innings and Flintoff is confident about jumping two places in the order.

“I have spoken to the coach and it is something I feel I can do,” Flintoff said.

“I did have the opportunity to do it earlier in my career but now I am a bit more experienced, a bit more confident in my game.

“I trust my technique and I feel more equipped to go in at the top of the order now.

“We will see over the next few weeks how we go but it is something that won’t be ruled out (in the long-term).”

Ian Bell

Ian Bell is set to open the innings again in India

Ian Bell is scheduled to open alongside Andrew Strauss, just as he did at the end of the one-day series against India here earlier in the year.

England were thrashed 5-1 on that occasion, when mid-innings struggles against the spinners often cost them.

But Flintoff feels the team will have learned a lesson ahead of the opening match, which could set the tone for a hectic winter schedule.

“The last time we were in India we got into positions of strength to win games and didn’t see them home,” Flintoff added.

“The one thing we have to do is make sure when we are on top we stay on top and that is something we didn’t too well last time.

“The Champions Trophy is an important tournament and having reached the final of the last one, the team wants to do well in this one.”

As well as Flintoff - sidelined from the one-day team for six months due to an ankle injury - England welcome back fast bowlers James Anderson, who re-discovered some of the vigour of his youth on the subcontinent earlier this year, and Steve Harmison, who has been forthright in his preference for Test over one-day cricket.

Steve Harmison

Steve Harmison could be a one of England's key performers

Nevertheless, Flintoff said: “Steve Harmison is committed to the side whether it be Test or one-day cricket.

“He is someone I am close to and as soon as Harmy steps out on the field you know what you are getting.

“I am not worried about Steve Harmison, he is a fine player and a valuable member of our team.”

Harmison’s last outing was a painful one as he recorded the worst-ever figures by an England bowler in a one-day international, conceding 97 to Sri Lanka at Headingley.

However, there is no doubting his wicket-taking ability and England will need that potency if they are to fulfil Flintoff’s ambition of progressing from a group also including Australia and holders West Indies.
“The upshot is we can beat anyone in the world and we have done,” Flintoff added.

“We beat Pakistan twice this summer and Australia when they came over last time.

“The one thing we need to strive for is consistency, that is something we will gain by playing with each other, gaining more experience and having a belief we can do it.

“I don’t know where we are rated but I am confident in my team going into a tough group and an exciting one to be in.”

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