'Freddie put his hand up to bowl - it was a good option'

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Matthew Hoggard is likely to be named today in England's one-day squad for the seven-match series against South Africa. His late summons may bring to six the number of specialist seamers in the party, unless the management decide to send Stephen Harmison home.

Matthew Hoggard is likely to be named today in England's one-day squad for the seven-match series against South Africa. His late summons may bring to six the number of specialist seamers in the party, unless the management decide to send Stephen Harmison home.

Hoggard was bemoaning his lack of opportunities in the limited-overs side last week after his exceptional swing bowling exhibition in the Fourth Test at the Wanderers brought him match figures of 12 for 205. With Andrew Flintoff almost certain to be released from the party so he can have surgery on the bone spur in his ankle, line and length merchants are in short supply. Both Harmison and James Anderson have had recent trouble with their control.

Flintoff showed again yesterday what a monumental cricketer he is. No sooner had he scored a crucial 77 at two distinct paces - the first 30 before lunch took 110 balls, the next 47 took 34 balls - than he opened the bowling instead of Harmison and took the first two South African wickets to fall.

"Freddie put his hand up to bowl because Steve was struggling with his calf," said wicketkeeper Geraint Jones. "It was a good option, he had batted well and was on a bit of a high. To knock over two wickets was a great start.

"He bowled quick and with a lot of purpose. It was the sort of wicket that suits Freddie. He was hitting it hard with the new ball."

The official line is that no announcements will be made until the end of the Test today, but if Flintoff stays it will be as huge a surprise as the fast, swinging yorker with which Andre Nel knocked over Graham Thorpe's leg stump yesterday.

Flintoff will miss smiling at Nel's enthusiastic unpleasantries if the South African makes his one-day squad.

Nel's antics again illuminated the day as he took his first six-wicket haul in Tests. After removing Thorpe, he crossed swords with the England spinner, Ashley Giles.

Nel said: "I bowled a terrible bouncer and he said that I wasn't as mean now, so I told him that he had a big mouth now but I'd catch him in England when I play for Sussex." Nel then promptly removed Giles's off stump.

"The ball that I bowled Thorpe with was probably the best I have ever bowled in Test cricket. You may not like me but I play with heart and passion for my country."

At one point umpire Steve Bucknor told South Africa's captain Graeme Smith to curb Nel's language. "I was speaking English, not Afrikaans," Nel said.

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