Flintoff caught out by his own nature

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The Independent Online

Andrew Flintoff was at his most enigmatic. When he came to the wicket yesterday one could almost feel his new found sense of responsibility coming out in a rash all over him. He was all too clearly determined to concentrate and not do anything wild or stupid to get out.

After his dramatic 142 in the second Test at Lord's, the expectations of another full house at Trent Bridge would have left him in a dilemma. Crowds may not fully appreciate the vagaries of a particular pitch or indeed the requirements of the moment. The spectators now were obviously hoping for some sort of repeat performance.

Flintoff was determined not to lift his bat in anger until he had played himself in. He negotiated his first 19 balls with studied caution, leaving at least half of them alone. It was all very well, but what he should really have been trying to do was to push the ball into the gaps for singles.

It would have helped not only in terms of playing himself in, but would also have rotated the strike, which is important in these circumstances. Unfortunately, Flintoff the batsman does not deal in singles. His currency is boundaries, unless a fielder gets in the way.

In the end, his patience gave way and, on his 20th ball, from Andrew Hall, he snicked a simple catch to first slip when there was no need. He wasnot guilty of violence, just carelessness and an inability to sit completely upon his natural instincts.

Of course, England supporters would always like to see Flintoff bat as he did at Lord's, but the contrast between the situations could hardly have been greater. At Lord's there was no real pressure on him, because England had already irrevocably lost the match and his innings was never going to make the slightest difference. He had a licence to kill and his thrilling strokeplay would have been no more than a minor irritant to the South Africans.

At Trent Bridge, England had, in losing Nasser Hussain and Ed Smith on the second morning, thrown away much of the advantage gained on the first day. The pressure could not have been more acute, and the bounce was lower and more inconsistent and awkward than at Lord's. It was a different Flintoff that was needed but, although he tried his best, he was ultimately caught in two minds.