Michael Vaughan last night warned England fans not to expect too much from Andrew Flintoff when he returns to the England side.
Flintoff is set to gain a much awaited England recall against South Africa at Headingley on Friday after being named in a 12-man squad for the second Test. Flintoff's summons comes in the wake of the drawn first Test against South Africa at Lord's, a match in which England's bowlers spent two days attempting to dismiss Graeme Smith's defiant side. It was an endeavour that ultimately failed.
South Africa lost just two wickets on the final day of the Test and had reached 393 for 3 in their second innings when the two captains, Michael Vaughan and Smith, accepted that there was no possibility of a result. The teams will now travel up to Leeds with the bowlers, Flintoff included, hoping to find more favourable conditions.
"I've always had it in my mind to get him back in the team and he is now ready," Vaughan said. "I think he is being built up a bit too much and that is unfair on him because he has had 18 months out of the team. He is not a wizard. He is not going to come and sprinkle dust. He is just going to come and perform the best he can. There is no pressure on him. He needs to come and bowl as he can and whack it like he does and try to get his level of performance to what it was before, but it might take a bit of time. He has that bit of X-Factor. You know when you give him the ball he can create something, make things happen when he bats and take wonderful catches. His stature in the dressing room is important and I'm sure teams around the world would rather play England without Freddie in the team."
Flintoff's last Test appearance for England came as captain, and was one he would rather forget. Defeat in the fifth Test in Sydney took England to an embarrassing 5-0 Ashes defeat. No player would want to finish his career on such a note but there were many who thought he would as he struggled to overcome a chronic ankle injury, a problem that has required four operations. But Flintoff has worked tirelessly to get fit and return to the stage he loves.
A side strain kept him out of the New Zealand Test series and Vaughan will be hoping his return provides his tired and dispirited side with the fillip they require. Flintoff replaces Chris Tremlett in the squad, but it will be Ryan Sidebottom or Paul Collingwood who makes way for him in the starting XI. Sidebottom complained of a sore back towards the end of the Test but Collingwood looks set to be the unlucky man. Omitting Collingwood, a player who continues to give so much to the team, will be a tough decision for the selectors, especially after the poor umpiring decision that prevented him from impressing here at Lord's, but it is the correct one.
Collingwood has been in poor form for England this summer, scoring only 39 runs at an average of 9.75 in four Tests. It is 14 matches since his last Test hundred. Replacing him with Flintoff would be a tactical as much as a form decision. England needed a fifth bowler at Lord's, especially one capable of hurling the ball at more than 90mph with a bit of reverse swing. Collingwood could receive a stay of execution if Sidebottom's back remains a problem.
Headingley is a ground where four bowlers have won Tests, but it would be a cautious option. Test teams are always concerned about the depth of their batting and Flintoff's form with the willow this summer has been poor. But, after England played the better cricket in the first Test, such an approach would be a backward step. South Africa will perform better at Headingley and England should continue to attack if they want to retain control of the series.Reuse content