Flintoff learning the value of selectivity

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The Independent Online

Lancashire's batsmen made the most of the benign batting strip here yesterday, though they discovered ways of getting out when well set. Only John Crawley accepted the offer of the 100 that was available for anyone prepared to get firmly on the front foot and bide his time.

Lancashire's batsmen made the most of the benign batting strip here yesterday, though they discovered ways of getting out when well set. Only John Crawley accepted the offer of the 100 that was available for anyone prepared to get firmly on the front foot and bide his time.

It was in many ways a typical Crawley innings, all elegance and immaculate timing, but the one that would have provided food for thought for the watching David Graveney, the chairman of the England selectors, was played by Andrew Flintoff, who made only 55, but from a mere 64 deliveries.

Flintoff hit eight fours and a six, so it was more a vignette than an innings. But it contained further evidence of his rapidly increasing maturity and Leicestershire's relief when Anil Kumble had him caught by Iain Sutcliffe was all too apparent, as was the near hysteria of some earlier appeals.

Before that, Michael Atherton and Crawley put on 97 together in a way that suggested that Lancashire wanted to avoid batting last on this pitch, which was now probably slower and lower than earlier. Leicestershire had not used the new ball too wisely and often looked like a side not knowing how to make things happen. When Atherton was, for once, caught on the back foot and palpably out leg before, Flintoff dismissed his first ball effortlessly through mid-wicket but then batted with a selectivity which suggested he is learning fast how to value his wicket. Among his other qualities, he is a devastating dispatcher of the loose ball.

Crawley wisely gave him his head and sat back to watch in admiration. Flintoff began by driving the off-spinner Carl Crowe over mid-on with a shot like a tracer. He then lofted him into the pavilion and regularly picked off anything that was only fractionally short. It was calculated violence with a hint of more to come.

But Kumble, who had not had the best of days, had him caught close in off one that might have bounced more than most. Crawley, meanwhile, eased his way to three figures from 187 balls and then got his head down with the air of a man with a lot more batting to do.

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