Flintoff set to get England captaincy

Published: Sunday, May 7, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Worcester:Andrew Flintoff is set to be named captain of injury-hit England when the selectors announce today their 13-man squad for next week's first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's.

Flintoff was widely praised for his captaincy skills when stepping into replace Michael Vaughan during England's drawn series in India.

And with Vaughan still sidelined by a longstanding knee injury, all-rounder Flintoff looks the obvious candidate to lead the team.

Giving extra responsibilities to the all-rounder is not something England will do lightly, especially as he is likely to have an additional workload in the field given that pace trio Stephen Harmison (shin), Simon Jones (knee) and James Anderson (back) are all ruled out through injury.

And with an Ashes tour and a World Cup on the horizon, England are acutely aware of the dangers of Flintoff suffering 'burnout'.

"Fred (Flintoff) is very useful to us because he can bowl and bat," said England coach Duncan Fletcher.

"Most players find it hard enough to just bowl and captain or bat and captain and that's why it's a very difficult decision.

"We have to sit down and work out what's good for Andrew Flintoff because what's good for him is also good for England and benefits us."

"Andrew is very keen to captain the side. He's more than willing to do it because he enjoyed it last time and he enjoyed it in a difficult place on that last tour so I'm sure he'll be even more willing to captain during the summer."

In the meantime Fletcher said he thought Vaughan would soon be returning to action.

"He's told me it (the knee injury) seems to come and go, but he seems pretty optimistic," Fletcher said.

"He's going to take a bit of time with it. He's hoping to play next week sometime, but we've got to make sure we take our time with all these injuries."

Fletcher was at New Road on Saturday to see England A complete a 10-wicket win over Sri Lanka with more than a day to spare.

Uncapped Gloucestershire seamer Jon Lewis is tipped to be included after a nine-wicket haul for England A while Alastair Cook is vying for an opening batting berth with fit-again Marcus Trescothick, the man he replaced in India.

In the continuing absence of injured spinner Ashley Giles, England are likely to include just one slow bowler at this stage in an English season when conditions generally favour the quicks.

The question is will it be Hampshire veteran Shaun Udal or promising left-armer Monty Panesar.

Both men peformed well, at times, in India but Panesar bolstered his chances with five wickets for Northamptonshire against Somerset on Friday.

And Fletcher suggested it might be Panesar who got the nod by saying: "You always have to be careful not to just look at today, but to also look at tomorrow. What you're trying to do is to achieve consistency and to be consistent you have to look forward.

"We've always had this policy, which we think has been pretty successful, of looking at players who can grow at international level."

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