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Justin Langer column

Justin Langer writes regularly for BBC Sport
By Justin Langer
Former Australia batsman and Somerset captain

Andrew Flintoff in action for Lancashire
I was shocked at the ferocity of the Flintoff onslaught at Old Trafford

If I was the sole selector of the England Test team, Andrew Flintoff could bat at number 11 if it meant playing him.

Since the 2005 Ashes series, it has been my strong opinion that he is the best fast bowler currently playing international cricket - he must play in England's first XI.

In many ways it is a luxury to have the gladiatorial Lancastrian batting at number six and acting as the fourth bowler.

There have been whispers that he needs to score runs to scrape into the England line-up.

But I have never known Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh or Glenn McGrath having to score runs to be selected.

There is no doubt Flintoff is a more talented all-round cricketer than the three legends I have just named, but he is in equal company when it comes to delivering a cricket ball.

Only last week I padded up against Lancashire in the County Championship for Somerset and I can say first hand that Flintoff is absolutely ready to be picked for the first Test against New Zealand.

One of the joys of retiring from international cricket was knowing that I wouldn't be peppered by the world's best fast bowlers ever again.

This in mind, I was shocked at the ferocity of the Flintoff onslaught at Old Trafford.

As I kept saying to him, I could have understood if I was batting with Matthew Hayden and wearing a green Australia helmet with a kangaroo and emu embroidered on the front.

Andrew Flintoff celebrates the dismissal of Justin Langer at Edgbaston in the 2005 Ashes series
Flintoff's spell for Lancashire was just as ferocious as any from the Ashes

Instead, I was in a red Somerset helmet with Marcus Trescothick partnering me, so if I was ever in for a reprieve from England's best fast bowler then surely that would have been the time.

History will suggest this couldn't have been further from the truth.

For about an hour I could have been in the boxing ring with Joe Calzaghe and by the end of it I had literally copped a hammering.

My ribs, elbow and chest were so bruised I could have been confused for Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas!

Both Marcus and I agreed his spell was one of the great ones either of us had ever faced and while it was ugly - and at times intimidating - it is what we miss about playing international cricket on its toughest days.

The thing that distinguishes Flintoff from the rest is every time the captain throws him the ball, the opposition team sit on the edge of their seats hoping he doesn't destroy the game during his spell.

Last week at Old Trafford was no different as if Australia were playing an Ashes Test match.

606: DEBATE

The opposition may have been different - but the feeling was identical.

There is no doubt the big fiery quick must prove his fitness but, from what I have seen, he is ready and he would be in my team every single day of the week.

He had that hungry look in his eye and a hungry and inspired legend must be selected every time they are fit because they simply win games by their presence and skill.

From Somerset,
JL




see also
Flintoff helps Lancs thrash Scots
27 Apr 08 |  Counties
First-ball failure for Flintoff
24 Apr 08 |  Counties
Flintoff shines for on-song Lancs
23 Apr 08 |  Counties
Flintoff targets Lord's comeback
21 Mar 08 |  England
England in no rush for Flintoff
27 Mar 08 |  England
Justin Langer column
21 Apr 08 |  Cricket


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