Flintoff's ankle flares up
England are waiting anxiously to discover whether Andrew Flintoff’s bid to re-establish himself as a world-class all-rounder has been undermined by a recurrence of his ankle problems.
The 29-year-old Lancashire star has been working hard at Lancashire to rediscover confidence in his batting technique, but a long-standing ankle problem now threatens his chance to stamp his mark on the opening npower Test against West Indies at Lord’s on Thursday.
Flintoff felt discomfort in his left ankle, which has been operated on twice in the last three years, while bowling nine overs for Lancashire against Hampshire over the weekend and is now awaiting the results of a scan to determine whether he will play a full part in this week’s opening Test.
“I had a couple of twinges in Australia. It’s something we have been aware of and something that has niggled away but it did get a bit worse last Friday. I struggled to play through it on Friday and we’ll have to wait and see how it settles down, but fingers crossed it will be all right.”
It would be a huge frustration for Flintoff if he were unable to take his place in England’s line-up for the first match of the new regime under coach Peter Moores.
He has worked hard in the nets at Old Trafford with Lancashire coach Mike Watkinson and former team-mate and agent Neil Fairbrother to restore his confidence in a technique which had deserted him by the end of England’s World Cup campaign.
Flintoff’s status as one of the world’s best all-rounders came under scrutiny during the winter after scoring only two half-centuries during the Ashes, while he has passed 50 only once in his last 28 one-day international innings for England.
It is one of the reasons why the selectors chose Andrew Strauss to lead the side this week in the absence of injured captain Michael Vaughan, although Flintoff stressed: “The captaincy wasn’t something I was really thinking about.
“Since I’ve got back from the West Indies I’ve been concentrating on getting my game in order and I’ve had a fantastic opportunity at Lancashire to do that.
“I came back a week last Sunday and from Tuesday I’ve been back at Old Trafford batting and bowling, managed to have a couple of games and rediscovered my form a little bit. The captaincy is something I’d have done if I’d have been asked, but it was not something I was hanging out for.
“I’m happier with the way I’m playing. I got a couple of 60s in a one-day game and I was able to get my head down and play at Southampton on a tricky wicket against some quality bowlers.
“I’m pleased with the way things have gone because I’ve worked hard and it seems to be coming back a bit now. By no means have I cracked it or have reached where I want to be, but I’m definitely going in the right direction. I’m a lot happier with the way I’m playing than I probably was a month ago.”
As part of that process, his decision to stay on in the Caribbean following England’s exit from the World Cup and enjoy a family holiday with wife Rachael and children Holly and Corey has helped his rehabilitation.
He is now more focused and confident should the scan allow England to select him as an all-rounder, although they may consider dropping him and choosing Owais Shah as a specialist batsman instead if he is unable to bowl.
“Being in the West Indies for that week after England went out gave me a bit of time to reflect about what had happened in the winter and more importantly helped me move on from that,” said Flintoff, who was speaking at the launch of the Asda Kwik Cricket initiative in Regents Park, London.
“I thought about how I was going to get back playing my best cricket and I feel I’m going in the right direction. The bowling does seem to take care of itself for the time being and the emphasis has been on my batting.
“I’m feeling more confident about walking out to the crease - I’m in a far better place now than I was a month ago. I’ve done the work and worked hard and I’ve just got to get onto the field and start doing it again now.”