England coach queries Flintoff's fitness - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

England coach queries Flintoff's fitness

By Adam Cooper 07/11/2006 06:15:20 PM Comments (0)

Concerns over whether England captain Andrew Flintoff can bowl long spells after ankle surgery has the tourists worried about taking a thin batting line-up into the first Ashes Test against Australia.

Coach Duncan Fletcher admits he is unsure how many overs Flintoff could produce at the Gabba from November 23, and those doubts means the tourists are sure to play four other bowlers as insurance.

Flintoff has bowled only five overs - during the recent Champions Trophy - for his country since he underwent surgery in July, although the star allrounder has declared himself fit.

But Fletcher was not as confident and said the tourists would play five bowlers - comprising Flintoff, three other pacemen and a left-arm spinner - in case the captain was unable to bowl many overs.

"We've got to look at five bowlers, especially now with Flintoff, with the workload he takes on," Fletcher said.

"If we were confident of him getting through a lot of overs we could probably look at (playing) four (bowlers), but with Flintoff not bowling many, we've got to go in with five bowlers."

England's major concern with playing five bowlers is carrying a long tail, as wicketkeepers Geraint Jones and Chris Read average 26 and 20 with the bat respectively, and would go in at No.7.

Ashley Giles is the only England bowler who has a healthy batting average (21), and that might be crucial in his fight for selection against fellow spinner Monty Panesar (10).

Fletcher said the length of the tail was something that needed addressing.

"That's the thing we've really got to look at the next couple of games we play in," he said.

Playing five bowlers also means one of batsmen Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood - who have all performed well in Tests of late - would miss out in Brisbane.

The competition for places means England must use its three warm-up matches wisely.

Fletcher said the players who did not take part in the Champions Trophy - Giles, Panesar, opener Marcus Trescothick, Cook and paceman Matthew Hoggard - were likely to play the Prime Minister's XI in Friday's one-day match in Canberra.

England then has two three-day games, against NSW and South Australia.

The tourists have been given permission to play up to 14 players against the Blues, but will play 11 against the Redbacks, and that match will be granted first-class status.

Fletcher said he, Flintoff, batting coach Matthew Maynard and bowling coach Kevin Shine had discussed the likely Test line-up, and were close to finalising the team.

"We're pretty close, we had a good hour-and-a-half meeting yesterday throwing it around," he said.

"I was quite convinced what we'd require even before we came out here ... we've got a good idea what we want."

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