Forget Ashes and refocus, urges Flintoff

Edgbaston hosted one of the most exciting Tests ever played last summer when, under a baking hot sun and with a fervent crowd roaring them on, England beat Australia by two runs. The contrast between that unforgettable Sunday morning and yesterday, as Steve Rouse, the Warwickshire groundsman, tried to dry out a saturated outfield before the second Test against Sri Lanka, could not have been starker.

Yet there is one constant between the build-up to that Test and now - England are in desperate need of a win. They have won only two of the 10 Tests they have played since leaving Birmingham with sore heads nine months ago. The Ashes were subsequently regained, and England's status as the second best team in the world confirmed, but life since has not been particularly kind to Michael Vaughan and his side.

Injuries continue to deprive England of four of their leading players and the side selected this morning will contain only six members of last summer's victorious squad. It, therefore, came as no surprise to hear Andrew Flintoff, England's stand-in captain, state that he had had enough of what took place last year, and that he wanted his side to focus on the present.

"What happened last year was fantastic," Flintoff said. "But it was a year ago and I don't want to keep dwelling on the Ashes. We have a Test to play against Sri Lanka, and we saw last week that they are a talented, fighting side. We can't turn up thinking about former glories. We need to concentrate on the job in hand.

"There have been a few changes to the side but the lads who have come in have performed well. We played some good cricket last week and a couple of mistakes cost us, but now we have to start winning some Tests."

England were understandably given time off after the drawn first Test, but the recent inclement weather cannot have helped their preparations. England's practice over the last two days has been limited to an indoor school, a completely different experience to practising outside, and when they walk on to the field today it will be the first time in 10 days that some of them have played on grass.

Flintoff has been pretty active during his break, starting the Great Manchester Run, visiting Ludlow Racecourse, watching Amir Khan win in Belfast, playing in an Ashley Giles golf day in Birmingham and attending Posh and Becks' World Cup do.

On Tuesday his attention returned to cricket and in the evening he went out for a meal with his close friend Muttiah Muralitharan. The pair frequented a Chinese restaurant so that Murali could eat his favourite dish, crispy duck. Flintoff would have been wary of eating duck so close to a Test, especially if he has heard the tale about Wayne Larkins' dalliance with the bird.

The former England batsman chose to eat duck on the eve of the 1989-90 Barbados Test. "I don't believe in all that bollocks," was the gist of his reply when a team-mate queried his choice of food. Larkins bagged a pair in the match.

Flintoff denied that his off-field activities would affect his performance. "I am a cricketer and I enjoy cricket," he said. "After my family it is probably the most important thing in my life. I am not going to lose direction. Things off the field come around by performing on it, so if that stops there will be nothing there."

Over dinner Flintoff will have enjoyed telling Muralitharan about the distance from the middle to the boundary at Edgbaston. The rope is foolishly brought in even when a Test is being played in the centre of the ground. But after covers put over the Test wickets to protect them while a firework display took place over the winter affected the growth of grass, this game will be played on a strip 10 yards closer to the Eric Hollies side of the ground. The 55 to 60-yard boundary will offer Muralitharan no protection against Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Marcus Trescothick, who averages 80 here. England fans will not give a stuff, but this attitude is one of the key reasons why spin bowling is in decline. More sixes - 16 were struck here last year - do not mean better cricket, so put the boundaries back and give spinners a chance.

After a week of rain the pitch will have little pace or bounce but there may be some lateral movement. England will name their side prior to the toss but they are expected to field the same XI as at Lord's. Sri Lanka have made one change and will consider another. Michael Vandort has replaced Jehan Mubarak at the top of the order and Lasith Malinga, a small, slingy fast bowler, may play ahead of Nuwan Kulasekara, the all-rounder whose 64 helped save the match at Lord's.

England (from): A Flintoff (c), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, A N Cook, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, G O Jones, L E Plunkett, M J Hoggard, S I Mahmood, M S Panesar, J Lewis.

Sri Lanka (from): D P M D Jayawardene (c), M G Vandort, W U Tharanga, K C Sangakkara, T T Sameraweera, T M Dilshan, C K Kapugedera, M F Maharoof, W P U C J Vaas, K M D N Kulasekara, M Muralitharan, L Malinga.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own