England wait on team selection
As if his transformation into a national hero wasn't enough to be getting on with, Andrew Flintoff has been appointed an honorary selector as he prepares to play his 50th Test in front of an adoring home crowd at Old Trafford.
Flintoff's allround heroics set up an excruciatingly tight two-run victory for England in the second Test at Edgbaston on Sunday, and now he is to be called upon to assess the conditions at Old Trafford before England decide on their final XI for tomorrow's third Test.
The temptation to name an unchanged side must be strong, but England are toying with the idea of giving a debut to the tall Hampshire seamer, Chris Tremlett, whose key attributes of bounce could play a part on a rock-hard Old Trafford pitch.
"We just want to see the conditions and have a good long chat with Freddie [Flintoff]," Michael Vaughan told reporters on the eve of the match. "It's his home ground. He knows the conditions better than most, certainly over the last year or so.
"We haven't played that much here so we are going to try to use his experience and see which is the best way to go," added Vaughan, whose Yorkshire team-mate Matthew Hoggard would appear to be the most likely candidate to make way if Tremlett were to feature in this Test.
"We want to have a look at the options of normal swing [Hoggard's speciality], reverse swing, bounce [Tremlett], all the areas that you cover in a normal game of cricket. "We probably won't decide until the last minute."
Flintoff's Man-of-the-Match performance at Edgbaston included bowling figures of 7 for 131 and crucial innings of 68 and 73. "It's difficult to say if there's more to come from him," said Vaughan. "He didn't get five-for and he didn't get a hundred. That's the one area where he could get better, but it was an incredible game for the team and it was certainly a magnificent game for Freddie."
England's latest victory was their first in a "live" Ashes Test since the opening match of the 1997 series, also at Edgbaston. "I always think momentum's great but it can be difficult to deal with," explained Vaughan, whose dream of becoming the first England captain in nine series to win the Ashes is still alive.
"Everyone said Australia had the momentum going into Edgbaston, but for the first three days we dominated the game and it was only that last morning where they came back into it. You really do have to wipe the slate clean and make sure we go into this game fresh."
Vaughan's concerns in the captaincy department are as nothing compared to his batting woes. He has scored just 32 runs in four innings, but was philosophical about his bad trot. "When you are playing well and getting a lot of runs that kind of form has to come to an end," he said. "When you get a run of low scores that has to come to an end.
"You can't keep getting low scores. You work hard, keep doing the right things, and it will change in the middle, it has too," added Vaughan who scored three hundreds in the last Ashes series, in Australia in 2002-03. "Sometimes you have to give credit to the bowlers. They've put all the batsmen under pressure."