Pakistan v England, 1st Test, 4th day, Multan November 15, 2005

Flintoff backing England for win



Flintoff: 'after 80 overs it looked like a dog had chewed it, so we knew we had to use the new ball effectively' © AFP
Andrew Flintoff was a satisfied man at the end of the fourth day's play, having carried England back into control of the first Test in Multan with the best match figures of his career. A haul of 4 for 88, to add to his 4 for 68 in the first innings, left England needing just 198 for victory, and by the close they had reached 24 for 1, with Marcus Trescothick falling to Shabbir Ahmed for 5.

"We've worked hard today," said Flintoff. "Obviously at one stage we felt like Pakistan might have been in a position to declare, but we stuck to our task as a pack of bowlers, and the fielding was exceptional. We know it's not going to be easy on a last-day pitch, but it's held up pretty well and we're going to be confident going into tomorrow.

"The wicket's played well all game, but it's the last day and it could spin a little more. It's been getting stuck in the surface a bit and keeping a little bit low, but it's a good surface and we think we can score 170 runs."

Flintoff may have been England's attack leader, as he took the new ball for the first time since the Pretoria Test against South Africa in January, but he let his fellow seamers share the plaudits, after they had reined Pakistan in from a threatening 266 for 3 to 341 all out.

"Bowling as a group is the one thing we've done over a period of time," he said. "Matthew Hoggard was outstanding once again and Steve Harmison chipped in with three at the end. We knew when we came here it was going to be hard, because after the initial burst with the new ball we were going to have to stick in, dry the runs up and wait for the new ball to come round again. We took it and used it effectively."

By the close England were within striking distance of their sixth Test victory of the year, but Flintoff was taking nothing for granted. "We're in a position to win it, but it's not going to be easy," he said. "We're going to have to play in the way we have done over a period of time. We've got quite a bit of talent in our dressing-room, and so we'll be confident."

The crucial phase of the fourth day was the second new ball, as Flintoff acknowledged afterwards. "We've not really got the ball to reverse, and after 80 overs it looked like a dog had chewed it, so we knew we had to use the new ball effectively. Pakistan could have got away, but we came back well and hard, and it was a crucial session before tea."

"It's a war of attrition for bowlers out here," he said, when asked about the personal significance of his haul. "You've got to keep hitting the deck and keep aiming to knock off stump out of the ground, with the odd bumper as well. It's very satisfying to come off with eight on a pitch like that. Of course, I'd like more five-fors, but if the team is getting ten an innings, it doesn't matter who gets them."

Whether he would be keeping the new-ball role ahead of Steve Harmison, Flintoff couldn't say. "I've practised with the new ball in the nets so I feel confident but I think it'll chop and change. It's hard to say who'll be more effective. I've had a run with it today but don't know if that's the theme for the rest of the series. I'm sure Harmy's keen to get his hands back on it."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo