England take caution with Flintoff
Andrew Flintoff has been omitted from England's team for their final warm-up match against West Indies A at Basseterre, starting on Thursday, after the management opted to treat his recovery from a side strain with caution ahead of next week's first Test in Jamaica. Earlier this week, Flintoff was withdrawn after a single day of England's opening match of their Caribbean tour, after reporting soreness in his left side while batting during England's first innings. He was sent on a four-hour round trip to Jamaica for a precautionary scan, and though the results showed "no major damage", Flintoff's previous history of side problems has demanded a cautious approach. "He is still a little sore but the scan results were good, so hopefully he will be ready for the first Test," said Andy Flower, the senior member of England's coaching staff, during a press conference in St Kitts. "It's not ideal but he'll certainly be okay bowling-wise. He could go straight into a Test match, he's experienced enough to go straight in." Flintoff scored just 11 in his solitary innings of the tour, and has not bowled at full pace complaining of his stiff side. In May last year, he missed the whole of England's home Test series against New Zealand after a similar problem flared up during a high-octane performance for Lancashire against Durham, and England are desperate not to rush the progress of their star allrounder, especially ahead of a crucial home season that includes the ICC World Twenty20 and the Ashes. Meanwhile England's other casualty of their opening fixture, Owais Shah, has been given a further opportunity to challenge Ian Bell for the No. 3 Test berth, after he was named in the side to face West Indies A. Shah made an unbeaten 125 in that first match before waking up on the second morning with blurred vision, later diagnosed as a scratched left cornea. After a day spent wearing an eyepatch, Shah was fit enough to take the field during the closing stages of England's 217-run victory. Graeme Swann and Ryan Sidebottom have also been given their first opportunities of the tour, with Steve Harmison and James Anderson completing a four-man attack. In Sidebottom's case, it is his first first-class appearance for England since August, although as England's reigning Player of the Year, a strong performance could push his claims for a Test recall. England's opponents have been set back by injuries with Darren Bravo, the younger brother of West Indies allrounder Dwayne, being sidelined with a finger injury, while uncapped fast bowlers Nelon Pascal and Kemar Roach have various complaints. England should still get a fairly tough workout with the captain Darren Sammy, Sewnarine Chattergoon and Amit Jaggernauth all having played Test cricket, while Lendl Simmons and Leon Johnson have appeared in one-day internationals. England XI 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Owais Shah, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Ryan Sidebottom, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steve Harmison.