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It is not often that the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards – an annual cringe-fest, replete with leaden gags and squirming athletes – provides much insight into the inner workings of a sporting team, but such a moment occurred on Sunday.

A seemingly well-oiled Andrew Flintoff shuffled to the podium to collect the award for Team of the Year on behalf of the England cricket team, who watched on from Johannesburg via satellite link on the big screen behind him.

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It was an arresting sight: the team clad in pristine white polo shirts and congregated around their captain like eager school-children at morning assembly; Flintoff, on the other hand, appeared louche and unshaven and sounded suspiciously garrulous.

There was a brief moment of embarrassment as the host, Gary Lineker, asked Flintoff’s opinion of his ex-captain, Andrew Strauss. The two men are known to dislike one another and the big screen briefly captured Strauss’s discomfort as Flintoff made reference to “Strauss having wanted the captaincy for a long time” – a reference to the Ashes tour of 06/07 – but the moment passed and Flintoff uttered only a few more banalities to the relief of all concerned.

Freddie might remain loved by the general sporting public, but the impression conveyed over the satellite link is that the team has moved on.

Flintoff’s retirement from Test cricket presents England with both an opportunity and a problem. The problem is how to balance the team.

The English press is full of arguments and counter-arguments as to who should play where.

The general consensus is that Strauss, Andy Flower and Ashley Giles (the third selector) should opt to attack and select five bowlers. This would mean either Luke Wright or Stuart Broad batting at 7.

The enthusiastic Wright has his supporters, but some question whether his “bits and pieces” cricketing style is good enough for Test cricket. Broad batted well at 8 during the Ashes, but most observers – Andy Flower included – doubt that he is yet good enough to bat at 7.



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