Flintoff and his lads looking forward to having another go at India

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READY FOR BATTLE: Andrew Flintoff will be banking on the likes of Kevin Pietersen to challenge the Indians. Photo: S. Subramanium
READY FOR BATTLE: Andrew Flintoff will be banking on the likes of Kevin Pietersen to challenge the Indians. Photo: S. Subramanium

I take on board all suggestions and act on some by a sort of gut instinct, says the England captain

England is a scrapper in every sense, writes Ted CorbettFlintoff awaits Vaughan's return as the captainThe English skipper says that he is not going to change in a few matchesHe feels the bouncier track may suit England better

Freddie Flintoff's bonny young scrappers will be expected to put up exactly the same sterling performance they showed against India in Nagpur when the two sides meet for the second Test on Thursday. Or the big man will want to know why.

Flintoff did not suggest this as a threat today; more as a parent says that homework must be done before supper. "I have their respect and I respect them," he said of a team without a cricketer aged more than 30.

"I am not looking to be captain for any longer than it takes Michael Vaughan to recover and, to be honest, the sooner he returns the better. Nor am I going to change in a few matches. But we have to put up another performance like our effort in Nagpur if we are to make an impression on this coming Test. Well, I am looking forward to another go at India and so are the rest of the lads."

A new meaning

His pre-match press conference gave a new meaning to the expression "press briefing" as it lasted only six and a half minutes.

It was nothing to do with an effort to avoid questions; it was simply that after his expansive words at the end of the first Test there was nothing much left to ask.

Still, he managed to find more words of praise for his men. "It is a young team, the youngest since 1960, and there are going to be times when the cricket is difficult.

"But there will not be the temperatures we face in Nagpur and this pitch may have a bit more bounce and perhaps suit us better.

"We have survived the recent difficulties without Michael and Marcus Trescothick, Simon Jones and Ashley Giles but Matthew Hoggard, who has been here before, Steve Harmison, Andrew Strauss and the older guys have made things easier for me and come up with suggestions.

"Like Monty Panesar, who has not needed a lot of captaining because he knows his field and what he wants to bowl which means he does not need a captain.

"I take on board all the suggestions and act on some by a sort of gut instinct and reject others. I am in charge and I have to make the decisions but it is nice that no one is being anything but helpful."

He and the coach Duncan Fletcher will decide on a team after practice on Wednesday although if I know the cautious Fletcher it will not be named until just before the toss.

Stark truth

The truth is stark: there are no options now that the core of the side has gone home. Imagine Australia without McGrath, Ponting, Symonds and Warne not an exact parallel and see how it would struggle. England has discovered two weapons and is using them to full effect.

The first is the old English ability to turn an insult into a virtue as the Eighth Army did in World War Two when the German general Rommel called them Desert Rats and they revelled in that description until they chased Rommel out of Africa.

The second weapon is the new sporting cliché `scrappin'. Paul Collingwood used `scrappin' as a term of approval after his first innings century at Nagpur; Flintoff praised his side's ability to scrap when he summed up his feelings. England is a scrapper in every sense.

Only a scrap of the original side remains; and they can also be described as `scrappy' meaning a team that includes too few fully seasoned Test veterans.

England may bring Liam Plunkett in for Ian Blackwell or Flintoff may be so taken with the spirit his disjointed mix has shown that he urges Fletcher to keep the same lot. Either way England has a scrap on its hands.

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