England monitor Flintoff and Denly
England know they must monitor Andrew Flintoff and Joe Denly’s every move - for very different reasons - after picking both in three separate limited-overs squads.
Uncapped Denly and lynchpin all-rounder Flintoff are among 15 players selected for the NatWest Series against Australia and the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa, as well as 14 for a one-off match against Ireland and 15 for two Twenty20s against Australia.
As expected, the squads do not feature key batsman Kevin Pietersen, whose recovery from an Achilles operation means his target now must be the tour of South Africa, beginning in November.
It is the ability of Denly to adapt to international cricket, however, and Flintoff’s to withstand the rigours of a tough schedule on his chronically injured right knee which will exercise the minds of the England management most in the coming weeks.
National selector Geoff Miller admits the wellbeing of Flintoff - set to retire from Test cricket after this week’s Ashes decider at the Brit Oval - will inevitably remain a concern.
But England are prepared to take the player at his word when he says he is ending his Test career so that he can commit wholeheartedly to the limited-overs formats.
Asked whether it is perhaps optimistic to schedule such a busy schedule for 31-year-old Flintoff, Miller said: “I hope it is not wishful thinking. I hope he is fit.
“He has said he is going to retire from Test cricket - so one-day cricket is where he is going to put his focus.
“We are hoping he is going to be able to play as many of those games as possible - because that is what he has set himself to do.”
Flintoff’s inclusion is indicative of the store England’s selectors set in “consistency and continuity” - and Miller claims the Lancastrian’s regular presence means the team know their individual and collective tasks, under Andrew Strauss in one-day internationals and Paul Collingwood in Twenty20.
“We are trying to build up a squad, so that people are comfortable where they play,” Miller told Sky Sports News.
“If we have to monitor it [Flintoff’s fitness] day by day or match by match we will do that. But as it stands, he is an integral part of the squad.”
As for Denly, Miller and company are confident they have seen enough for the 23-year-old Kent batsman to be given his chance - but concedes an acid test awaits.
“He is a very exciting prospect. We have been monitoring him for a while, and he has played very well - not just in one-day cricket but four-day as well,” Miller said.
“It will be interesting to see how he reacts to international cricket.
“He is a strong character and a good, forceful player. He is effervescent - how he plays is how he is as a character.
“But you don’t really know until they get into that international arena how they will react to it.”
Denly himself is unsurprisingly delighted at the opportunity.
“It will be fantastic,” he predicted. “To play for England will be a dream come true, something I will be very proud of and am looking forward to.”
The remaining personnel in the squads announced this afternoon bear out England’s commitment to consistent selection.
The three squads are near identical, Strauss missing from the trip to Belfast and Twenty20s to allow a rest after the strain of such a central role in an Ashes summer.
His batting replacement for the Twenty20s in Manchester is Jonathan Trott, called up in place of Ravi Bopara at the Oval but left out of the ODI squads for the seven-match NatWest Series and Champions Trophy which follow so swiftly.