The long-term outlook for Andrew Flintoff has once again become a major concern after the England captain was taken for a scan on his troublesome left ankle. Flintoff, who has had two operations on the joint, complained of discomfort while bowling during the second Test in Adelaide, and could be seen limping towards the end of the match. The scan was clear, in that it revealed no further damage, but the results are largely irrelevant if he is still feeling pain.
Flintoff will play in next week's third Test in Perth no matter what. In a match of this importance he will bowl through the pain. But the big question is, how much longer can he continue doing this? If it is solely a reaction to back-to-back Test matches that will clear up in due course, then fine. But if his ankle is going to flare up every time he carries a heavy workload then Flintoff and England have problems. England have a week's break after Perth but the final two Tests, in Melbourne and Sydney, are back-to-back.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is attempting to make light of the events, saying that it was a convenient time for him to have a check-up. An ECB spokesman said: "After the second Test we took the opportunity to have a precautionary scan on his ankle which revealed no change at all. Flintoff netted with the England team this [yesterday] morning and will be available for the third Test."
What they did not mention is that Flintoff did not bowl in the session and is unlikely to bowl much over the coming week. There would also be no need for a scan unless there was some concern about the player's welfare. Watch this space.
Monty Panesar, a bowler who is hoping to play alongside Flintoff at the WACA, had a mixed day playing for an England XI in a limited-overs festival match in the suburbs of Perth. In his first proper bowl for almost three weeks Panesar took two wickets and held on to a catch at long off. But the left-arm spinner was struck for four huge sixes in 10 overs that conceded 63 runs.
An England XI containing three former Test cricketers - Alec Stewart, Robin Smith and Adam Hollioake - five members of the current touring squad and three Academy squad players, were thrashed by seven wickets by a Chairman's XI. A disappointing day was completed when Liam Plunkett injured a finger that required an X-ray.
Stewart, the England XI captain, believes England were right to leave Panesar out in Brisbane and Adelaide but feels he will play in next week's third Test. "Monty bowled all right," said the former England captain. "He was hit for a few sixes but seemed happy with the way the ball came out. I was not surprised he did not play in the first two Tests. Duncan Fletcher went for his bankers and backed his all-round cricketers. But I think he will play in Perth.
"Monty is not the be-all and end-all but he has so far done well for England on turning pitches. But he has not done so well on pitches that don't turn, like Lord's. But he is a special bowler. I am disappointed to see Fletcher receiving so much criticism because I believe the performance on the field is down to the players. They have to take responsibility for what has happened."
The Australia opener Justin Langer captained the Chairman's XI and enjoyed the aggressive approach of his batsmen towards Panesar. He said: "There has been so much talk about Panesar and it did not surprise me that the blokes went after him so hard."