Flintoff injured as tired England struggle

 

Andrew Flintoff, the all-rounder on whom England have pinned their future hopes, broke a bone in his left foot while bowling at Newlands yesterday.

Flintoff appeared in distress after completing his fourth over of the day and sat on the pitch with his boot removed before hobbling from the field. An X-ray revealed a crack in the metatarsal bone adjacent to his big toe. He will see a specialist this morning. Although early for a confident prognosis, it seems unlikely he will be able to bowl for some time and could miss not just the end of the Test series, but the one-day matches that follow.

According to the England physiotherapist Dean Conway, the injury was not stress-related, but was caused by a single impact. It is not a complete fracture (which would mean six-to-eight weeks on the sidelines) but roughly a third the width of the bone.

"Had he attempted to bowl even one or two more deliveries, it could have been made considerably worse," said Conway.

"He certainly will be unable to bowl again in this match and probably the next as well. He is in pain and will have to bat with a runner in the second innings.

"It is difficult to say whether he would be fit for the one-day squad but he must be considered doubtful as far as bowling is concerned." Although only 22, Flintoff has an unenviable fitness record. A back problem has never been fully resolved and, ironically, he has been nursed along gently as a bowler on this tour. Only recently has he been allowed to contribute a full day's work with the ball. He is a huge man - about 17 stones - who generates pace with a vigorous body and arm action, slamming his front foot down hard in delivery. Clearly the force is too much.

The news of Flintoff's injury was the cherry on the cake, for things did not go England's way yesterday. Bowled out in the morning for 258, they needed wickets early on, took but one, and struggled in the sun thereafter as Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis began the process of batting England out of the game.

There was no luck going for England but a team that is down on its uppers, as this side were on the second day, tends not to have any. So twice, brilliant pieces of fielding at point by Michael Vaughan counted for nothing when on each occasion his shy at the stumps missed, letting off first Herschelle Gibbs and then Kirsten on 22. On a good day at least one would have found its target.

In between Kallis, on 11, was dropped by Alec Stewart behind the wicket off Chris Silverwood, the ball jolting from the wicketkeeper's right glove as his arm hit the ground following a spectacular dive. Contrast with Vaughan's ill fortune in playing a firm and legitimate shot off his hips straight into the midriff of short leg - who clung on only through reflex - and an lbw decision that went against Phil Tufnell later on when Kirsten had 67, and the picture was clear.

England look like they are waving goodbye to the series. By the close, Kirsten and Kallis had taken their unbroken second-wicket partnership to 157, taking advantage of bowling which, not surprisingly after Durban, looked jaded and indisciplined.

Hittable balls were two-a-penny at times and, in both reaching 80, Kirsten and Kallis struck eight fours apiece with Kallis hooking a six off Silverwood for good measure.

Pakistan have appealed against the International Cricket Council's decision to ban pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar for an illegal action. The decision ruled Shoaib out of the one-day series involving Pakistan, Australia and India, starting on Sunday. The ICC plans to review its decision in a month.