Flintoff steps back in as captain

Andrew Flintoff has been reappointed as England's captain for their next match in the CB Series, against Australia at the Gabba on Friday, following the news that Michael Vaughan has been ruled out for the immediate future with a grade one tear to his left hamstring.

For Flintoff, the appointment comes as a mixed blessing. Since relinquishing the captaincy after England's 5-0 whitewashing in the Ashes, he has rediscovered some of his best form, and anchored his team's first victory of the tour, against New Zealand at Hobart yesterday, with an unbeaten 72.

But at the same time, his reappointment is a show of faith from a selection committee who are desperate not to portray their talismanic allrounder as a scapegoat for the team's failures on this tour.

Though the logical choice would have been Andrew Strauss, whose poor batting form might be galvanised by the extra responsibility, it has been deemed that the long-suffering Flintoff does not deserve a second demotion. At least, not until the players are safely home from Australia.

"It's something I wanted to think about - I didn't expect this when Michael came back," said Flintoff, who has won just one of his seven ODI matches as captain. "It was about getting it right in my mind and you shouldn't underestimate what a big job it is. We are a young, inexperienced side and I wanted to get it straight in my mind."

"Throughout the Ashes I learnt a few things about myself, about my game, about captaining and I now need to take that into however long I am going to be captain of this team," he added. "I chatted with Vaughany and like me he wanted it to be the right decision for myself. I spoke to him as a captain and as a mate as well, we chatted things over, I am here and doing it.

"Throughout the series, speaking about loyalty, every one of the lads, the coach, the staff have been fantastic with me. They have stuck with me, they still want me to do the job and they spoke to me about doing it. On that front it's a big thumbs up. We've had a tough winter and I am determined to enjoy the rest of it. You make decisions instinctively on what you see and I will continue to do that."

Even so, England's dithering over the issue shows just how heavily it has weighed on their minds. When Vaughan was named as captain for the one-day series, he was given no official vice-captain, in spite of the obvious fears that his fitness would not stand up to the rigours of his first international outing for more than a year.

Vaughan, who tore his hamstring in the field and needed a runner during his innings of 17 against New Zealand, will stay with a squad that has been reinforced by the call-up of Mal Loye, the Lancashire batsman. Loye was named in the 30-man preliminary World Cup squad this week and will join the squad in Brisbane tonight.

For the Brisbane match itself, however, the Essex allrounder, Ravi Bopara, is expected to replace Vaughan at the top of the order, having been drafted into the squad as a replacement for Kevin Pietersen, who suffered a broken rib in the series opener against Australia at Melbourne last week.