Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Moving targets

England should name their XI for Antigua straight away, if only to preserve what's left of the mental health of the press.

Bell and Collingwood have been duffed up already and Harmi's a basket case anyway, so attention has shifted rather queasily to Andrew Flintoff. Lawrence Booth's case is that the giant is on the wane. Nick Hoult, with the whiff of second-hand info, says he can't play with KP.

Flintoff is not a man who will ever be flattered by statistics. Like Botham, you kind of had to be there. He is a player of great innings (albeit infrequently) and a bowler of great spells, rather than a great player. That much has always been apparent. His batting is brutal but fragile, his bowling demanding rather than deadly, and whatever the opposite of a golden arm is, he's got one. His wicket-taking is stymied by his natural length, which is slightly short for regular pitches. 

But this is old news. The world has known it for some time.

Hoult's piece is risible, and based around the three Tests since 2005 that England have won with Flintoff and Pietersen in the side. I don't know how a statistician like David Barry would describe this information: I'd call it disingenuous in the extreme. Flintoff has been injured for great swathes of it; it disregards whoever else was in the team - they probably won just as few when Flintoff has played with Vaughan, or Bell, or Harmison, or Collingwood, or Cook; it also ignores the fact that Pietersen has played in every test since 2005 - all 41 of them. 

On the list of England's problems, Flintoff and Pietersen are some way down. Unless you're reading the papers, of course.

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