Lancashire 143 & 293 Durham 114 & 90: Captain lays down law on talisman's case for England call

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The Independent Online

For once, the story here was not Andrew Flintoff, although it was impossible to keep him out of any conversation, not least with his captain, Stuart Law. Much as he wanted to talk about how James Anderson had bowled as Durham collapsed to 90 all out yesterday morning, completing Lancashire's first Championship win of the season, Law's warmth for Flintoff could not be contained.

"Should he be in the England side for the first Test? For me it's a no-brainer," Law said. "That spell he bowled to Paul Collingwood on Thursday night was the best working-over of a world-class batsman I've seen in a long time.

"It could have been Ricky Ponting or Brian Lara at the other end, they still would have felt the heat. Ask Justin Langer, too, about the hour he had against him here a couple of weeks ago. For him not to be in the team would be ridiculous. There is no question about his fitness. People think he is a lager lout but the poor guy does more fitness work than anyone. If you spent a week with him you'd know how much he wants to be back in the England side.

"You guys are making too much of his batting. If he gets a duck it's all over the papers but in the nets he is hitting the ball better than ever. He is doing his utmost to get it right. If he isn't scoring runs, my answer would be to bat him at No 11 because the fact is that he is bowling out of this world."

Aware that the Test selector Geoff Miller was present, Law confessed that he did not expect to be picking Flintoff next week against Nottinghamshire. Nor would he count on Anderson's availability. Having finished the tour to New Zealand in the Test side, Anderson would be unlucky to miss out.

In taking nine wickets for 77 in this match, Anderson consistently bowled the ideal length for his late away swing. On a muggy morning yesterday, taking 5 for 25 in 11.4 overs, he blew Durham away. That allowed Flintoff to spend half an hour off the field, reading a newspaper in the dressing-room. It was an indulgence, but his work was done.