Cricket: Flintoff passes fitness test to ease the strain

England 303 & 195-8 dec Northerns/Gauteng 201 & 195

England win by 102 runs

ENGLAND COMPLETED their four-week preamble with a 102-run victory over Northerns/ Gauteng, the strongest of their opponents leading up to Thursday's first Test at the Wanderers. It was their second first-class victory of the tour, but if the margin suggests a team peaking at the right moment, there are still enough question marks to prevent their captain from getting a sound night's sleep.

Most worrying for Nasser Hussain, aside from his own sketchy form, must be England's propensity to collapse, as they did on Saturday. Cruising at 88 for no wicket, they suddenly found themselves at 130 for 7. Granted circumstances dictated that they needed to get on with it, but with a history of these things old weaknesses were revealed.

Alec Stewart, another failure with the bat, also remains a cause for concern. As one of several all-rounders, Stewart is under far less pressure than some and has at least until the third Test to keep his place. At present it is his lack of a gameplan for batting in the middle-order, rather than a lack of touch, that appears to be hindering his search for runs.

In the past England's problems tend to compound on tour, and news that a scan revealed a "hotspot" in Dean Headley's lower back, a discovery that means he will fly home immediately for 12 weeks rest, would normally have seen an outbreak of long faces. Fine timing then by Andy Flintoff who, as soon as the bad news had been made public, gave his own back a fitness test by returning an impressive 5 for 23 in the match.

Flintoff can bowl a heavy ball as Clive Eksteen, the home side's captain, will testify after being caught at gully from a bouncer that deflected off both glove and helmet. There was also subtlety, and after Steve Elworthy had hooked him for six he deceived the all-rounder with a slower ball that made its way into his enormous hands.

Although it is perhaps asking too much for Flintoff to get through 16 overs in a day, his availability to bowl after suffering a back strain earlier in the tour certainly frees up Hussain's options. He may even be tempted to include a frontline spinner for the Test, though Michael Vaughan, with 2 for 27, displayed spin and savvy with his part-time off- breaks.

It means also that the batting can be strengthened by adding Gavin Hamilton without over-exposing his bowling, which, although successful on two occasions yesterday, provided easy fodder for Neil McKenzie.

With Gauteng chasing 297, McKenzie showed just what a complete player he is until he was last man out for 87, playing over one of Darren Gough's inswinging yorkers.

Fortunately for England, only Daryll Cullinan came close to matching him and if England were a little jittery after the two had put on 61 for the third wicket, Cullinan's dismissal, cutting a decreasingly rusty Gough to Vaughan in the gully, precipitated a collapse - six wickets for 38 runs - that even England would have struggled to match.

Fourth day of four

Combined Northerns/Gauteng XI won toss

COMBINED NORTHERNS/GAUTENG XI - First Innings 201 (N D McKenzie 62).

ENGLAND 303 (M P Vaughan 85, M A Atherton 81; D J Terbrugge 4-67) and 136-7

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight 136-7)

C J Adams c Bacher b Eksteen 21

A J Tudor not out 19

A R Caddick not out 24

Extras (b8, lb3, nb6) 17

Total (for 8, 61 overs) 195

Fall: 1-88, 2-91, 3-93, 4-96, 5-97, 6-127, 7-130, 8-156.

Did Not Bat: D Gough.

Bowling: Elworthy 16-3-46-2; Smith 4-0-34-0; Eksteen 26-8-72-4; Terbrugge 4-1-15-0; Bacher 1-0-5-0; Masimula 10-5-12-2.

COMBINED NORTHERNS/GAUTENG XI

Second Innings

A M Bacher c Hussain b Vaughan 18

S V Koenig c Vaughan b Gough 6

N D McKenzie b Gough 87

D J Cullinan c Vaughan b Gough 32

M van Jaarsveld lbw b Caddick 5

N Pothas c Sub b Hamilton 3

S Elworthy c & b Flintoff 6

C E Eksteen c Vaughan b Flintoff 0

D J Terbrugge lbw b Hamilton 4

G J Smith b Vaughan 18

W B Masimula not out 2

Extras (lb10, w1, nb3) 14

Total (48.1 overs) 195

Fall: 1-9, 2-46, 3-107, 4-119, 5-125, 6-138, 7-138, 8-145, 9-193.

Bowling: Gough 13.1-1-69-3; Caddick 12-5-24-1; Tudor 2-0-13-0; Vaughan 8-1-27-2; Hamilton 8-1-35-2; Flintoff 5-2-17-2

Umpires: D L Orchard and W A Diedricks.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Y1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Y1 Teacher required for a So...

Senior Financial Services Associate - City

Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - FINANCIAL SERVICES - Senior...

Residential Property

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Residential Conveyancer - Wiltshire We have a...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week