Flintoff’s out

Cricinfo England’s dilemma over whether to pick Andrew Flintoff for Thursday’s first Test has been decided for them, with the England all rounder unavailable for the first two Tests against New Zealand after picking up a side strain.

Flintoff, who has enjoyed an encouraging start to the season for Lancashire following ankle surgery in the winter, experienced some discomfort in his left side while bowling for Lancashire at Old Trafford on Friday.

He was assessed and received treatment by the Lancashire medical team and subsequent scans on confirmed the diagnosis of a side strain.

All the talk over the past few weeks has revolved around Flintoff’s impressive form with the ball, while he has barely scratched a run with the bat.

Justin Langer and Stuart Law had both urged England to recall him for the first Test, but there were notes of caution sounded from Mike Atherton, Geoffrey Boycott and Ian Botham, who believed he was not quite ready.

The decision has been made for England’s selectors, however, and the 12-man squad.

England have recent experience of coming unstuck against New Zealand, but an attack of Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and probably James Anderson should be sufficient to dispatch the visitors.