Bangladesh v England, 1st ODI, Chittagong November 7, 2003

Flintoff fireworks lift the tedium



Andrew Flintoff: a typically ebullient innings
© Getty Images


Thank God for Freddie Flintoff. Without his wonderfully polarised performance - a frugal, wicket-laden bowling spell followed by a murderously swift half-century - this match would have been dragged kicking and screaming over the full distance. And even then the result would never realistically have been in doubt.

There are times when one-day cricket is so formulaic and dull, it is a wonder that anyone bothers to watch it. Today was one of those occasions. This match was over from the moment that Bangladesh surrendered five wickets for one run in 14 madcap deliveries. But from 66 for 7 with more than half the innings remaining, England somehow allowed the tail to wag for a further 26 overs. Michael Vaughan later implied this was no bad thing, as it ensured his batsmen were chasing a competitive total. He might as well have told the crowd to get packing, and wrapped a net around the square instead.

Happily, Flintoff is not one to complicate his run-chases by casting one eye to future engagements. He announced his return to the colours with a something-for-everyone performance. The home batsmen might not have appreciated his knuckle-rapping length, but the home fans were later able to revel in a typically ebullient innings - one that included a cannonball of a straight four that all but decapitated umpire Rahman, and an attempted sweep that rebounded straight onto his own nose.

Just as Shane Warne is able to spin the ball on glass, so Flintoff's heavy-limbed action can extract disconcerting bounce from the deadest of surfaces. So it was that the unresponsive Chittagong track actually backfired on Bangladesh. Their mid-innings debacle was instigated by Flintoff's fire at one end, and Ashley Giles at the other, who was grateful for the dry, grassless surface. His three wickets were a welcome change of fortune after the Test series, while his diving return catch to dismiss Mushfiqur Rahman was ample proof that he has regained a spring to his step.

After that, however, it was all a little drifty - as testified by 29 extras, which fell one short of being Bangladesh's top-scorer. The newly anonymous James Anderson eased back in action with a satisfactory effort, although Rikki Clarke and Richard Johnson still seemed to be feeling the effects of that 24-hour bug that laid them out on Wednesday. Or maybe, after their successes in the Chittagong Test last week, they were just feeling a little sorry for their opponents.

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be accompanying England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.