England Struggle To Take Charge
Andrew Flintoff missed the opportunity to make amends for his latest brush with authority as England struggled to impose themselves.
Andrew Flintoff missed the opportunity to make amends for his latest brush with authority as England struggled to impose themselves in their only warm-up match before the Ashes.
Making his first appearance since news broke that he had been disciplined by England for missing a team bus during last week's trip to First World War trenches in Belgium, 31-year-old Flintoff had the ideal platform to generate more positive headlines.
But despite a determined 124 from opener Alastair Cook on the opening day of their three-day match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, England and Flintoff failed to build on that promising start and declared on 290 for eight before Warwickshire reached 31 for one in reply.
Lancashire all-rounder Flintoff had been given an encouraging welcome when he arrived at the crease by a supportive crowd, with England struggling on 229 for five against an under-strength Warwickshire attack.
Instead of banishing another set of negative headlines by the force of his performance, however, Flintoff only made 19 as England lost five wickets for 77 runs despite favourable batting conditions.
Batting on a wicket on the far reaches of the Edgbaston square close to the Tom Dollery stand, which reduced the boundary on that side to only 48 yards and opened up a long boundary on the other side, it was the ideal opportunity for a player of Flintoff's style to exploit the situation.
Flintoff got off the mark with a thick edge for four off 25-year-old seamer Naqaash Tahir, who has not played a championship match since last August, and used the vast open spaces of Edgbaston to claim two other all-run fours.
There was also a neat clip through mid-wicket for another boundary but just two overs after Matt Prior had been caught behind off Tahir, Flintoff was surprised by extra bounce and edged the same bowler to second slip.
It was a disappointing end to a miserable few days for Flintoff, who has battled back from knee surgery after sustaining the injury playing in the Indian Premier League.
Flintoff, though, was by no means the only member of England's top order who failed to exploit a Warwickshire attack without Neil Carter (rested) and injured pair Ant Botha and Jeetan Patel.
In their absence Warwickshire coach Ashley Giles, who is also an England selector, chose to rely on Tahir, gave a debut to 17-year-old Ateeq Javid and handed a chance to former Blackburn and Rochdale striker Keith Barker, now re-invented as a tidy left-arm seamer.
For a long time that inexperienced attack looked set for a long, hard day in the field while Cook teamed up with captain Andrew Strauss in a 61-run opening stand which appeared to have set the tone for a massive England total.
Strauss was fortunate to survive on 20 when he was dropped at second slip off Barker before edging Tahir to slip 11 runs later to earn Warwickshire a surprise breakthrough.
His early demise only set the stage for a dominant 101-run stand between Cook and Essex team-mate Ravi Bopara spanning 27 overs which threatened to guide England to a formidable score.
Instead of building on that impressive start, however, England suffered a collapse after lunch with Bopara missing out on a half-century when he mis-timed an attempted pull off Boyd Rankin for 43 and Kevin Pietersen following four overs later when he edged all-rounder Rikki Clarke to slip.
Cook then edged Jonathan Trott's medium pace behind after nearly four hours at the crease, a stay which included 21 boundaries.
His fluency only exposed the failure of his team-mates to play at a similar level with Paul Collingwood being bowled by Barker, earning him his maiden first-class wicket, after a scratchy 16 during 72 minutes at the crease.
Tahir than accounted for Prior and Flintoff in quick succession to leave Cook as the only member of the top seven to even pass 50 before Strauss called time on a disappointing batting display with 10 overs of the day remaining.
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