England fret over Flintoff and Pietersen

There are issues of much greater concern to England than being 4-0 down in a one-day series against Australia. Were it to become 5-0, as seems probable in Nottingham tonight, or even 7-0 by the time the interminable round of matches is apparently complete in Durham on Sunday, it would matter hardly a jot compared to the continuing uncertainties about the side's two most influential players.

The absence through injury of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff is one of the main reasons that England find themselves in such a conspicuous mess in the NatWest Series. With each passing match both have become more important than they were already, their replacements hopelessly exposed and, it is increasingly feared, not up to it.

But their return, while desperately needed, is clouded in doubt and, in Flintoff's case, suspicion. Pietersen has suffered a setback in his recovery from an operation on his Achilles and is by no means certain to be ready for England's tour of South Africa, which begins in November.

Flintoff appears to be on course for a return to cricket some time next spring, following surgery on his knee, and has gone to live in Dubai for two months to try to hasten his rehabilitation. But his international future has been complicated by the offer of a second-tier increment contract by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Having retired from Test cricket, Flintoff was not eligible for a lucrative central contract. The increment contracts, although worth considerably less, still give England a large element of control over those who sign them. Flintoff has been handed one because, given his frequent injuries, England are anxious to ensure they can largely dictate where and when he plays.

Although the Flintoff camp has said nothing, it has been suggested that he will decline the contract – the money being a mere bagatelle. Should Flintoff then wish to fly off and play in some of the Twenty20 leagues likely to spring up all over the cricketing world, including the six weeks of the Indian Premier League, he could do so, whatever England's view.

England would probably still have to pick him, as their 4-0 deficit to Australia so emphatically demonstrates. But not signing would make Flintoff appear greedy, antagonise his team-mates, ensure the loss of public goodwill and run counter to his expressed desire to be the best one-day player in the world. But all reports about any reluctance to sign on his part are, at best, premature and mischievous.

Pietersen had been expected to be fit again six weeks after his Achilles operation in July. At the time, England's chief medical officer said the surgery appeared to have been routine. But the scar tissue around the tendon soon became infected and has not cleared up. Pietersen said yesterday that he still has an open wound in his leg. "I saw a couple of surgeons during the week but it's slow at the moment," he said. If England do not have him in South Africa the Test side will find it extremely tough, the one-day side impossible.

Luke Wright, one of the players vainly trying to combat Australia without Pietersen and Flintoff, is doubtful for today's fifth match in the series after being hit on the toe while batting in the nets yesterday. Dimitri Mascarenhas has been called up as cover.

Fifth One-day International, Trent Bridge:

Probable teams: England: A J Strauss (capt), J L Denly, R S Bopara, M J Prior (wkt), O A Shah, E J G Morgan, S C J Broad, A U Rashid, T T Bresnan, R J Sidebottom, G Onions

Australia: S R Watson, T D Paine (wkt), R T Ponting (capt), M J Clarke, C J Ferguson, C L White, M E K Hussey, N M Hauritz, M G Johnson, B Lee, N W Bracken.

Umpires: A Rauf (Pak) & R Kettleborough (Eng).

Start: 2.30pm, Sky Sports 1, HD1.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower