They shoot horses, don't they? Andrew Flintoff's employers seem ready to pull the trigger on the most willing horse of all, if the goings on at Lord's on Saturday are anything to go by.

If Flintoff and the England management have any real hopes of him playing Test match cricket again, he should never have played in the final one-day international against India and should not have flown to South Africa last night with the World Twenty20 Championship squad.

He was clearly not fully fit against India, though he bust a gut as usual and turned the match by dismissing Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar - the latter being stitched up by an umpiring error for the third time in a month.

Flintoff's test of the chronic left ankle that has finished him as a Test all-rounder was a perfunctory two dozen deliveries in the nets on Friday but the real examination came the next day.

His first five overs forced him to leave the field for 25 minutes to have his ankle strapping adjusted. When he came back, he limped around the boundary and failed to cut off a four which a fit man would have prevented - after a steroid-type injection that masks pain but increases the long-term chance of permanent damage.

What are the Lord's medics playing at? Even assuming he survives the 13 days of the Twenty20 in South Africa - and that includes back-to-back matches in Cape Town on Thursday and Friday against Zimbabwe and Australia - he is booked for five 50-over matches in Sri Lanka. Flintoff barely got through the 50-over match on Saturday, yet he's being asked to play five of them in 13 days next month.

After that little lot, England have six weeks off before they play three Test matches in Sri Lanka in the space of four weeks, so forget Flintoff for December - in fact, forget him now as a Test cricketer.

Chairman of selectors David Graveney delivered the usual official-speak clap-trap, claiming that: "we shall carefully monitor his fitness but he has had three operations on the ankle and a huge amount of time off for rehabilitation, so it might be a case of him managing what he has got from now on".

In other words, it is just a matter of when, not if, he's consigned to the knacker's yard at the age of 29.

It is sad that one of England's all-time greats appears to be finished but Mother Nature is no respecter of reputations - ask Ian Botham.

The England and Wales Cricket Board know that if he had not played on Saturday and was not allowed to play in South Africa and Sri Lanka, then the few months off would not make a jot of difference to an ankle joint that has gone bust.

Assuming that Flintoff is awarded a prized central contract today, England want their pound of flesh, even it is only in limited-overs cricket. But he has a life to lead after cricket and his best interests would be served by not awarding a central contract today and allowing him to disappear into the sunset in reasonable physical shape. Let nobody hold his breath.

On a happier note, Warwickshire's Ian Bell was deservedly given the man-of-the-series award for his 422 runs in seven innings including one century and two fifties.

No other batsman on either side topped 400 runs but it was not so much his volume of output, as the way in which he batted with effortless elegance and unhurried strokeplay.

India finished the series as they began it, giving away the advantage of the toss and being played out of the match within 30 overs when they were 119 for six.

James Anderson was terrific in an opening spell in which he rattled Sourav Ganguly with his first ball to start an opening spell of 8-2-19-2.

Stuart Broad complemented him with equal aggression at the other end and Flintoff's first five overs were thundered down at around 90mph, although they cost 33.

No Indian batsman topped 30 except Mahendra Singh Dhoni, without whose 50 the total of 187 would have been at least 25 fewer. He scored 26 of the 27 runs added for the tenth wicket with R P Singh to give his side a chance if they could take a couple of early wickets.

The same Singh forced Sussex to oblige with ducks for promoted pinch-hitter Luke Wright and Matthew Prior - no certainty for a central contract - and when Kevin Pietersen ruth-lessly ran out Bell for 36 at 74 for three, it was to be the end of the match as a contest.

Paul Collingwood is in the form of his life for England and dominated a sprint for the line that ended the match 13 overs early with a win by seven wickets. He scored 64 off 73 balls in an unbroken partnership of 114 in 20 overs with Pietersen who finished with 71 off 96 balls.

Collingwood's first series in charge has been successful, thanks to Anderson and Bell, the captain's own batting and contributions from a quartet of new players in Broad, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Ravi Bopara and Wright.

Inexperience was an anathema to former coach Duncan Fletcher but there is no substitute for nerveless youth. It is too early to say that the tide has turned but it has been stemmed and the next 34 days will be more revealing - both for England and the Lancashire horse for whom the trigger is about to be squeezed.