Flintoff keeps Scotland in check
Andrew Flintoff began England’s new era in one-day cricket with a three-wicket haul between the showers against Scotland to provide hope of an encouraging end to the summer.
The Lancashire all-rounder made his first one-day international appearance in nearly a year in today’s historic first meeting at this level between the two great rivals in front of a near capacity 6,000 crowd at the Grange.
It was a low-key return for the 30-year-old, with steady rain halting England’s pursuit of an adjusted victory target of 159 after only 2.3 overs, having earlier claimed 3-21 in his eight overs to help restrict Scotland to 156 for nine.
It may have been quite a contrast from his last one-day appearance for England in front of a 30,000 crowd at Lord’s against India last summer, but just to see Flintoff back in the blue one-day uniform would have been a tonic for Kevin Pietersen as he officially began his reign as England’s captain of the limited-overs side.
In Flintoff’s absence with a mixture of side and ankle problems, England have won just five of their last 15 one-day internationals and with a powerful South African side to be faced in the coming weeks, new captain Pietersen is all too aware of his key all-rounder’s importance to a possible resurgence in fortunes.
Facing a Scotland line-up including only five players with county experience, Flintoff provided the cutting edge for a new-look England side including debutant Samit Patel and the recalled Matt Prior and Tim Bresnan.
He took a smart catch at slip, ended top-scorer Gavin Hamilton’s spirited innings of 60 and then returned for the final overs of an innings reduced to 44 overs to claim two wickets in successive balls.
Pietersen preferred to use James Anderson and Bresnan - recalled as cover for the injured Sidebottom and Chris Tremlett after a two-year absence - with the new ball and they quickly established England’s superiority to leave Scotland reeling on 11 for three.
Patel set the tone for the early overs with a smart run out of Scotland captain Ryan Watson from midwicket in the second over before Bresnan collected scalps in successive overs to remove Durham’s Kyle Coetzer and Warwickshire’s Nav Poonia, who both edged to slip.
Scotland recovered impressively through former Yorkshire and England all-rounder Hamilton and policeman Colin Smith, who forged a determined 64-run fourth-wicket partnership.
Hamilton perhaps had extra motivation after playing just one unsuccessful Test for England against South Africa in Johannesburg nine years ago - when he bowled 15 wicketless overs and suffered ducks in both innings - under previous coach Duncan Fletcher when he was perhaps better suited to the one-day format.
He was the mainstay of the partnership, but both players took the opportunities to play their shots with Smith finally falling for 36 having hit three fours and two sixes when he upper cut Stuart Broad to third man.
Before then Hamilton had already enjoyed two reprieves on 24, firstly when he was dropped by Anderson at slip off Flintoff and then put down by Luke Wright at third man in the next over off Broad.
But he recovered his composure to steady the innings after a mid-order collapse in between showers.
His 119-ball innings, which included four fours and three sixes, was finally ended with just four overs remaining when Flintoff returned to the attack and induced an edge behind which was superbly caught by Prior as Hamilton attempted to guide the ball down to third man.
Flintoff followed that success by claiming wickets with successive balls in the final over, which will have particularly pleased the new captain following England’s struggles with the later overs in recent matches home and away against New Zealand.
Facing an amended victory target, England had just enough time for Ian Bell to hit the only boundary of their innings during a new opening partnership with Prior before rain halted the match for the last time.