Hero Flintoff may get reprieve

Injured Andy Flintoff is being considered as a specialist batsmen for England's tour of Pakistan after his match-winning one-day innings yesterday.

Injured Andy Flintoff is being considered as a specialist batsmen for England's tour of Pakistan after his match-winning one-day innings yesterday.

England bosses say they may call him back into the squad should another batsmen drop out through injury.

Flintoff was brought on the tour as an all-rounder, but has been unable to bowl properly because of a back injury.

That looked to have ended his tour, but after his super 84 in the five wicket win, he could be called back.

The team's management have still not ruled out the possibility of either reversing the decision or recalling him if another batsman gets injured.

Coach Duncan Fletcher confirmed the Lancashire player was still due to leave the squad this week and head home.

But he said: "We thought this might happen when we made the decision, we knew this situation could arise.

"We thought at the time we needed an all-rounder as back-up in case Dominic Cork or Craig White went down, which would have left us with a huge gap in the side.

"We thought about keeping him on as a batsman, but we had to make some sort of a decision a week ago in order to get the balance of the squad right.

"At the moment he's going home, but he will be one of the players we will consider as a stand-by batsman - if we had a problem he would be one of two or three players we would look at."

That, at least, is some consolation for Flintoff just as he seems to have begun his development into an international-class player with his most composed innings since marking his one-day debut with a half-century against Pakistan in Sharjah 18 months ago.

"It's disappointing to be going home, but I always knew that if my back wasn't right I would be going home after the one-day series," he said. "In the past we've always looked for quick fixes with my back, but the time has come to go home, see the specialists and seek a long-term solution.

"I was really pleased with the way I played the other night because I didn't just go out and try and bludgeon the ball, but just tried to play straight and work the ball around.

"It's something I've been working on recently. When we played South Africa in Nairobi I got very frustrated because they bowled very straight at me and gave me nothing to hit so I've been working in the nets at pushing the ball around, trying to score at a run a ball and then punish the loose deliveries."

As England's most charismatic young player, Flintoff has become used to the attention over the past couple of years and Fletcher understands the public acclaim for this developing talent to remain part of the tour party.

"We had to make a decision at a certain stage and things can change - I don't think anything's really set," he revealed. "The difficult thing is that if he has one bad innings people say he should be out of the side and if he has one good innings, he's a world-beater."

Flintoff's innings was not the only bonus for Fletcher during England's opening victory with captain Nasser Hussain, Graeme Hick and Graham Thorpe all contributing valuable half-centuries to eclipse Pakistan's formidable 304 for nine with 17 balls remaining.

"Every tour you want to start well because to pull it back you have to have some very strong characters in the side," claimed Fletcher. "It's the most satisfying win I've been involved with.

"To get 300 batting first is some sort of performance, but to chase under pressure adds a little bit more to it, particularly how well the batters performed.

"All our top nine batsmen are learning to play one-day international cricket with the possible exception of Alec Stewart because we are very inexperienced at it.

"If you look at Zimbabwe, they are three-times more experienced than us which is why it is important we keep the batting line-up settled so they know what they're doing and we can become confident."

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