England captain Andrew Flintoff might be capable of bowling only a limited number of overs in the first Test against Australia, forcing the visitors to carry five bowlers, coach Duncan Fletcher said on Tuesday.
Flintoff has bowled only five overs — during the recent Champions Trophy — since he underwent surgery in July, although the star all-rounder has declared himself fit. But Fletcher was not as confident and said England would play five bowlers — Flintoff, three other pacemen and a left-arm spinner — in case the captain was unable to bowl.
“We’ve got to look at five bowlers, especially now with Flintoff, with the workload he takes on,” Fletcher said. “If we were confident of him getting through a lot of overs we could probably look at (playing) four (bowlers), but with Flintoff not bowling many, we’ve got to go in with five.”
Playing five bowlers also means one of batsmen Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood — who have all performed well in Tests lately — would miss out in Brisbane.
Fletcher said the players who did not take part in the Champions Trophy — including Cook and paceman Matthew Hoggard — were likely to play against the Prime Minister’s XI in Friday’s one-day match in Canberra. England then has two three-day games, against New South Wales and South Australia, before the first Test on November 23.
Meanwhile, Australian captain Ricky Ponting has rejected claims his side was too friendly with England last year. Ponting was annoyed when asked what he thought about recent claims from former Australian players Allan Border, Merv Hughes and Mark Waugh that his side’s rapport with England contributed to its 2-1 series loss.
“I think it’s a load of rubbish,” Ponting said. “It’s come from a few people who have been close to the side as well, which has been disappointing.
“I’m not sure how much of the last series they watched. If we were chummy on the first morning of the first Test, then I’d be pretty surprised.
“You’ve got to keep the bigger picture of the game in your mind as well,” he said. “At one stage we were being criticised for being too aggressive on the field and the next minute we’re being criticised for having a smile on our faces.
“It’s pretty hard to keep everyone happy all of the time, but I’ll guarantee it will be as competitive as ever. If we’re doing it with a smile on our faces, even better.”