Flintoff back on wagon with sights on starring role

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The Independent Online

Andrew Flintoff broke his duck in the wake of England's sensational 10-wicket victory over the West Indies. The Lancashire all-rounder, along with fellow pacemen Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, had a pact to stay off the booze during England's three-week build up to the first Test in Jamaica.

Andrew Flintoff broke his duck in the wake of England's sensational 10-wicket victory over the West Indies. The Lancashire all-rounder, along with fellow pacemen Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, had a pact to stay off the booze during England's three-week build up to the first Test in Jamaica.

And this they did until Harmison destroyed the West Indies with one of the most hostile spells of fast bowling seen in recent times. But following a night of celebration Flintoff has promised to return to the same strict regime which helped England to bowl the West Indies out for 47 at Sabina Park.

"I am back on the wagon now," said Flintoff after his 8.30am training session in the hotel swimming pool. "I've had my night of fun. It would have been a monumental effort not to have a drink on Sunday. When one of your mates takes 7 for 12 in one of the best performances you will see it would have been rude not to have a few rums."

Flintoff and Harmison's are training partners here in the West Indies but their friendship stretches back to the days when the pair played together for England Under-19's. Then Flintoff was Harmison's captain. "Captaining him was not too difficult," he said. "He was great. He did just what he did here. He ran in, bowled quick and took wickets."

Following his awesome display on Sunday there could be a tendency for England's other bowlers to sit back and wait for Harmison to do the same again in Trinidad. To enter a Test match with this attitude would be wrong because it is rare for a bowler to reach such heights in consecutive games.

The Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain will offer England a completely different set of challenges to those they encountered in Jamaica. The pitch is slower and lower, the weather is more stifling and it is a ground where tall accurate medium-fast bowlers, rather than out and out pacemen, have proved to be the match-winners.

Flintoff may not have bowled during the West Indian second innings in Jamaica but the history of this ground suggests he could, and probably should, be an influential member of England's attack during the coming week. Flintoff's Test record with the ball - 53 wickets in 30 Test matches - is not that of a potential match-winner but then again neither was Harmison's before Sunday.

"Obviously I hope to play a leading role," said Flintoff. "I will be happy if Harmy takes wickets but I would like to be chipping in with a few myself. The wicket here is not as fast as Jamaica so it will be a case of getting the ball in the right area for a period of time. Then hopefully the wickets will come.

"I always feel that the next Test match is going to be mine but it never seems to be. I still have a role to play but as long as we take 20 wickets it doesn't matter who gets them."

The locals in Port of Spain say the pitch here has changed. They say it is full of runs and is now a batsman's paradise. Visually, however, it did not look too dissimilar to those used in previous Test matches. There is still plenty of grass on it and the groundsman, in an effort to stop it drying out, is constantly keeping it under the covers.

Ten of the last 11 matches here have produced results. This means, in all probability, that England will either be leaving Trinidad in a week's time with the Wisden Trophy retained or the series once again up for grabs. If it is the former nobody would blame Flintoff if he had another couple of rums.

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