Thanks, Fred, and goodnight

So that’s probably it for Freddie, then. Whatever drivel the ECB can try and spin about his ankle needing time “to settle and recover before the process of further strengthening and assessment is intensified” – medico-speak for “he’s done it in again” – it’s probably safe to assume that a man on the wrong side of 30 who has played just one of his team’s last four Test series isn’t really one for the future. It’s time to look beyond.

Flintoff

Probably most likely to step into the breach in the short-term is Ravi Bopara. But he’s untried at Test level and despite knocking Mike Hussey over on his ODI debut, it’s hard to imagine him knocking over Test sides with his gentle trundlers off a short run. Similarly Paul Collingwood, who encouragingly hasn’t let snaffling Sourav Ganguly on a lucky LBW shout go to his head.

So let’s look to the current crop of youngsters. There’s Adil Rashid, who scored his first Championship century this season, and team-mate Tim Bresnan, who has fought back well from being Jayasuriya’s bitch last summer. Younger still, there’s Alex Wakely at Northants and James Harris at Glamorgan. For some of these it looks like the next Ashes in 2009 will come a bit soon (Harris was born in 1990, for heaven’s sake), while none of them really looks like a potential Test number six. But then again, nor does Freddie at the moment.

Who does everyone think will end up filling Fred’s specially-modified boots? A batsman? A bowler? Or is it time David Graveney got Mark Ealham back on the phone?

England a ‘one man team’?

Actually that is a simplification of remarks that Matthew Hayden made in an interesting interview to The Wisden Cricketer magazine. I think if you challenged him on that score, what he would agree is that Andrew Flintoff is the player that made the difference between the two sides. He does add tremendous depth to England’s cause and I doubt England can be a real force in cricket without him.

Not that the likes of Simon Jones, Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick are not great cricketers. It is just that Flintoff completes the team, instead of just having a collection of useful cricketers.

It’s notable that Flintoff made an impression on Australia; indeed, so much so that selectors immediately started looking around for their own version. They invested hopes in Shane Watson, and he’s got a bit about him; a hard hitting batsman and a fast bowler that can get the ball up at around 140 kmph. However he injured himself in the Test against West Indies at the Gabba and his place has been taken by Andrew Symonds. Symonds has proved himself a modest cricketer at this level, and is no match for Flintoff, at least in Test cricket.

And sadly Watson’s comeback plans have been thwarted again. He scored 201 before retiring hurt in Queensland’s win in the Sheffield Shield, and that injury has now kept him out of the ODI leg of the Bangladesh tour. Australia will have to look elsewhere to find a match-winning all-rounder.