Captain upbeat despite 'workmanlike' effort

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The Independent Online

Andrew Flintoff's natural instinct is to accentuate the positive and it was no surprise that he should hail England's six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka at Edgbaston as a significant moment. Yet he accepted that his team could have made shorter work of a touring side currently suffering one of its leaner phases.

"It was a workmanlike performance and as the first win of the summer it feels good, especially as we have a young and inexperienced side," he said. "If you look at the Test caps in our side it is about half of Sri Lanka's.

"But the one area where I would like to have seen us do better it is in scoring runs. We lost the last five wickets in the first innings for five runs . When you are up against a bowler like Muttiah Muralitharan it is not easy for young players but we should have scored somewhere closer to 360."

Flintoff denied his bowlers lacked a killer instinct in allowing Sri Lanka to turn a 154 first innings deficit into a lead of 77, their failure to make an early breakthrough yesterday helping opener Michael Vandort build a disciplined century, even though when the breakthrough came with the second new ball Sri Lanka's collapse was rapid.

"I think killer instinct is just a phrase used in the press," he said. "When you bowl you always try to get wickets whatever the stage of the innings but it is not like it was in the past.

"There are no sides in Test cricket where you have people coming in at eight, nine, 10 and 11 who cannot bat. Sri Lanka showed at Lord's that they keep fighting right down the order.

"I was always confident we would not have a problem knocking off the runs. I would have been concerned if we had been chasing 140 or 150 but anything less than 100 I was happy with."

Reflective analysis will show that England relied heavily on Kevin Pietersen's brilliant, unorthodox 142 and Flintoff did not disguise his admiration for the South Africa-born batsmen, admitting he had been reduced to the role of appreciative onlooker during their partnership on Friday.

"I was just standing there open-mouthed at times," he said. "He has a technique all of his own and watching him come down the wicket to flick the ball through the onside or reverse-sweep Murali was amazing. I scored nine in a partnership of 60 but I was just happy to watch what was happening at the other end.

"I've not seen anything like him and he has still played only a handful of Tests. I'm looking forward to seeing how far he can go in the next few years. We talk about who is going to be the next Brian Lara or the next Sachin Tendulkar and maybe one day we will be discussing who might be the next Kevin Pietersen."

Moment of the day

Michael Vandort must have wondered whether he was ever going to get to 100. He spent more than an hour in the nineties and on three occasions excellent diving stops prevented him from reaching three figures. But he got there eventually and he had every right to feel proud of his achievement.

Shot of day

Andrew Strauss's method of dismissal will have disappointed him but he produced a lovely shot to get England's second innings under way. Lasith Malinga's unique, slingy bowling action makes him a difficult bowler to face early on but Strauss's glorious extra cover drive was straight out of the textbook.

Ball of day

The pitch at Edgbaston did not suit Andrew Flintoff's bowling but the England stand-in captain produced a brute of a ball to dismiss Farveez Maharoof. It was pitched short and aimed straight at the throat of the batsman, who could little else but fend a simple catch back to the bowler.