Flintoff searches for positives after loss against India

England captain Andrew Flintoff was pleased with the way his team fought back in a low-scoring four-wicket loss against India in the opening Group A limited-overs international of the ICC Champions Trophy on Sunday.

“I am pleased with the character we showed,” said Flintoff, who returned to lead the England side after spending six months on the sidelines due to an ankle surgery.

Fast bowlers Munaf Patel (3-18) and Irfan Pathan (2-20) struck in their initial spells that helped bowl out England for 125 in 37 overs—their lowest total in a limited-overs game against India.

However, India wobbled in their run chase and lost six wickets to score 126 in 29.3 overs with fast bowler James Anderson and off-spinner Jamie Dalrymple claiming two wickets each in quick succession.

But Flintoff said that had his team scored around 160 to 170 runs, his bowlers could have had challenged a strong Indian batting line-up.

“It was a tricky track to score runs [on], and both sides showed that, so 160 or 170 could have been a par score,” Flintoff said. “But we came back into the game after we took wickets and had we scored another 30 or 40 runs it could have been a different story.”

Flintoff, who promoted himself up in the order to number three, failed in his return match and was trapped lbw by Pathan without getting off the mark from the seven deliveries he faced.

“I am happy to bat at three today [Sunday], but it didn’t come off and that can happen,” he said.

Flintoff praised Pathan and Patel’s opening spells that had reduced England to 55-5 in the 19th over.

“We were always chasing the game after fine spells of Irfan and Patel,” Flintoff said. “They exploited the wicket and put the ball in good areas,” he said.

England are due to play Australia on October 21 and the defending champions West Indies on October 28 in their remaining two group games.

“We are still in the competition, we have got two games left and we know exactly what we need to do,” said Flintoff, who also played his 100th limited-overs game in national colours on Sunday.

“We’ve got a week now before our next game,” he said.
“We reflect on this one and then look forward to next Saturday’s fixture.”

Despite Sunday’s loss, Flintoff hoped that his team could put up a much stronger fight against world champions Australia and the West Indies.

“We can learn from today [Sunday] and come back stronger in the next game,” he said.

Indian captain Rahul Dravid was relieved to record victory despite losing some late wickets to Anderson and Dalrymple.

“I don’t think we panicked,” Dravid said.

“We lost a couple of wickets too many in the end but it’s just because the ball was keeping low.

“But I think it was a good result for us.”

Dravid, who had led India to just two victories in the last nine limited-overs games prior to Sunday’s win, defended his decision to bowl first after winning the toss.

“We needed a big performance from our bowlers and luckily we got it when we decided to bowl first,” he said.

India next play against the West Indies on October 26 before taking on Australia in the last group game on October 29.—Sapa-AP

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