England to gamble on five bowlers in Brisbane

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The Independent Online

The England coach, Duncan Fletcher, is set to play five bowlers in the first Ashes Test against Australia later this month because of worries over Andrew Flintoff's fitness.

Fletcher's concerns over whether Flintoff can bowl for long spells after ankle surgery will see England name an extra bowler rather than the planned four in Brisbane on 23 November.

"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."

Flintoff has bowled only five overs, during the recent Champions Trophy, since having surgery in July, although the all-rounder has declared himself fit. Fletcher is not as confident, though, and the change of plan leaves him with concerns over the depth of England's batting.

"That's the thing we've really got to look at the next couple of games we play in," he said. Ashley Giles is the only England bowler who has a healthy batting average (21). That could now prove crucial in his fight for selection against fellow spinner Monty Panesar (10).

Playing five bowlers will also mean one batsmen from Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood would miss out in Brisbane.

Fletcher said the players who did not take part in the Champions Trophy - Giles, Panesar, the opener Marcus Trescothick, Cook and paceman Matthew Hoggard - were likely to play for the Prime Minister's XI in Friday's one-day match in Canberra. England then have two three-day games, against New South Wales and South Australia.

Marcus Trescothick warned the England newcomers there will be no hiding places against the Australians. "You know it's going to be hard," said Trescothick. "Every session is intense."

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