Cow Corner

Fred or dead?

Cow Corner

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Andrew Flintoff went into Lancashire's County Championship game against Sussex looking to increase his dismal batting average of just over five. Mission accomplished.

Problem is, Freddie fell, caught sub bowled Rayner, for six.

The greatest all-rounder in the world has gone longer without a decent score than a jailed narcotics baron, and has no chance of being recalled to the England side to play South Africa on Thursday.

Which is good news for fans of rewriting the record books, as it means England will become the first country ever to pick the same side for six Tests on the bounce.

That no team has ever kept an identical XI for more than five matches on the spin would suggest that Test cricket is run by Rafa Benitez types who cannot resist rotating their squads.

How could continuous changes be made to the Australian side that won 16 Tests on the spin, or the great West Indies sides of the 1970s and 80s?

More often than not, injury enforced changes rather than anything more sinister - particularly in the days before helmets.

If you think Daniel Flynn's lost front tooth against England was gory, imagine what would have happened without that protective grille.

Jimmy Anderson's bouncer would have sent Flynn's incisors flying through an exit wound in the back of his head.

Still, there is no doubt that it is in the cricketing psyche to tinker and experiment. Take the Summer of Four Captains, in 1988, when England were led against the West Indies by Mike Gatting, John Emburey, Chris Cowdrey and Graham Gooch - all with a complete lack of distinctions as the Windies returned home with a 4-0 series win.

Fixture congestion also plays a part. In this era of 12-month cricket six Tests means just over three months for England - in the old days it would have meant a side remaining unchanged for almost a year.

This being 2008, Peter Moores has an irritating and largely meaningless buzzword to explain his consistency in selection:

"The work I do is based around injury prevention - what we call 'Prehab'. We want to get to know each other as a team."

Above all, England's stable line-up comes down to a lack of viable alternatives. Flintoff left his form in a beery puddle on Tony Blair's lawn in 2005, while Marcus Trescothick and Steve Harmison don't have the mental toughness to stroll around in the sunshine for days on end.

The lack of credible batting cover means even out-of-form Paul Collingwood's place is not under serious threat while Tim Ambrose keeps Matthew Prior out of the side because England like to give wicketkeepers a decent run in the side before consigning them to the scrapheap.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "'You were a good 'un.' Simple. I don't think there's much more to say. The records speak for themselves." Darren Gough pays tribute to himself.

FEEDBACK OF THE DAY: ben.alchin: "I do believe my childhood hero Danny Morrison holds the record for most ducks in Test matches, I forget the figure off the top of my head but I believe it high enough to be out of reach of even the current 'walking wicket' NZ tailenders! P.S. He was my hero for bowling, not batting, just to clarify."

Danny Morrison once held the world record with 24 Test ducks, with current nought machine Chris Martin poised to overtake him, one behind on 23 from just 61 innings. The record now belongs to Courtney Walsh, who amassed 43 ducks over his 17-year Test career. The 'best' current player is Muttiah Muralitharan with 30.

TALKING POINT: Should England prepare for life after Andrew Flintoff or will Freddie eventually recover both form and fitness?

LIVE: The County Championship is in full swing, while Brendan McCullum is enjoying himself against Ireland.

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