Flintoff set to replace Wright for India decider

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As well as England have played in the NatWest Series it is India who carry momentum as the teams travel across the River Thames to Lord's for tomorrow's deciding encounter. Consecutive victories at Headingley and The Oval have ensured that India will arrive at the home of cricket in buoyant mood. England, meanwhile, will be feeling a little sorry for themselves after coming so close to winning the series on Wednesday evening.

Yet, no matter tomorrow's result, England's one-day side can feel pretty upbeat about the future after producing several encouraging performances against very experienced and talented opposition. For England the most promising aspect is that their three victories in the series have been gained through the performance of young or relatively inexperienced players – Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara – whereas India's have been largely built around the performance of the sides senior players – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh. Even in the narrow defeat on Wednesday there were fine displays from Owais Shah, in his 25th match, and Luke Wright, on his debut.

Shah played extremely well for his unbeaten 107 but most followers of cricket are well aware of his potential; it was the batting of Wright, who struck a 38-ball half-century, which made spectators sit up and take notice. England were in desperate trouble on 137 for 5 when the 22-year-old walked out to bat but after facing seven apparently nervous deliveries he took control of England's innings, cutting Yuvraj Singh for four and slog-sweeping the next ball for six. In two deliveries he had highlighted his huge potential.

"I wasn't particularly nervous to begin with, I was just finding my feet and how I wanted to play," said Wright, reflecting on a memorable debut. "Some-times when you go back at a bowler you put pressure on the fielding side and take it off yourself. That is what I look to do, hit the ball as hard as I can each time."

Wright's fast hands allow him to hit the ball extremely hard with a relatively low pick-up, and his quickfire innings earned him a standing ovation, a response that was not lost on him. "You want to play in front of crowds like that and keep doing it again and again. It's a great feeling. Until the evening I had to pinch myself."

Though mighty impressive, Wright may have to make way for Andrew Flintoff on Saturday, should the big man declare himself fit. Flintoff had a lengthy bat at Lord's yesterday, giving a strong indication that he still feels he has a chance of playing against India.

Flintoff is unlikely to play as a specialist batsman but his bowling has been sorely missed by England in the last two games.

With the World Twenty20 Championship less than a week away and a crucial game tomorrow the selectors will want Flintoff to bowl today to give them some idea of where they stand. Scans have shown that his left ankle is in reasonably good shape but three operations have left it unstable. If the medics can assure him that bowling will do no long-term damage to the joint he may have to get used to taking the occasional painkilling tablet and playing through a bit of pain.

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