ANDREW STRAUSS last night warned South Africa they are in for a shock if they think England can’t intimidate them without Andrew Flintoff.
Strauss leads his Three Lions out in a Test for the first time this morning since famously reclaiming the Ashes at The Oval in August.
Talismanic Flintoff has since retired from the Test scene, prompting Proteas fast bowler Makhaya Ntini to suggest that England have lost the one player who can intimidate opponents.
But while Strauss admits his side will naturally be hampered by the absence of the all-rounder, he remains confident that England’s developing breed have enough to unsettle the hosts.
“We’ve had to deal with him not being around quite a lot in the last few years,” Strauss said referring to Flintoff’s long-standing injury problems.
“We are obviously going to miss a guy of that quality, and the balance of the side is affected.
“But as for him being the only player who can intimidate South Africa, if they feel that, then I think that’s a good thing for us because we have some very good cricketers who can surprise them over the coming weeks.”
Strauss and the selectors will make an 11th-hour decision on the Centurion pitch before naming the England line-up with plenty of options available.
The captain has confirmed that Jonathan Trott will bat at three, but has yet to decide whether his side should play with six specialist batsmen.
Ian Bell may be called in to bat at six, although the seam-friendly conditions may persuade the selectors to opt for a five-man bowling attack with Ryan Sidebottom, Graham Onions, and one-day specialist Luke Wright all coming into contention.
“I am a little bit surprised [by the wicket], although it’s hard to say whether it will nip around all over the place,” Strauss added.
“We had some fairly strong ideas about which direction we wanted to go in but we’ll probably delay it until we see the wicket on Wednesday until we nail our colours to the mast.”
SERIES | AT A GLANCE
1st Test – Today
Centurion, start 8.30am
2nd Test – Sat 26 Dec
Durban, start 8.30am
3rd Test – Sun 3 Jan, 2010
Cape Town, start 8.30am
4th Test – Thurs 14 Jan, 2010
Johannesburg, start 8.30am