Jack Bannister on why it would make more sense for England to field a five-pronged attack on Thursday.
With Pakistan arriving at Manchester on Thursday for the second Test of a four-match series, England have added offspinning all-rounder Jamie Dalrymple to the squad picked for the Lord's Test, making 14 men in all.
They could pick 24 but it would not make a scrap of difference now that Andrew Flintoff will be absent for goodness knows how long.
The claim from the England medics is that he needs a minimum of 12 weeks of rehabilitation. That takes him to mid-October which more or less rules him out of the Champions' Trophy in India this autumn.
The last 12-week forecast concerning Mr Irreplaceable was made in January 2005, but his absence turned out to be for 14 weeks and then with a limited bowling workload, and he was not flat out for another three weeks. That makes 17 in all - and guess when the first Ashes Test starts in Brisbane?
Bingo!! In 17 weeks' time, and before that contest against the Australians, England have allowed themselves precisely seven days of cricket Down Under. That is certainly insufficient time and preparation for Flintoff to prove that his chronic left ankle can stand up to more than 20 overs per day in a back-to-back five-match series, in which he would need to bowl at least 200 overs in seven weeks. Forget it.
Sadly, the signs are that we will not see Flintoff the fast bowler ever again. He is 29, at which same age Ian Botham had one more major series left in his aching body. It is always a matter of when, not if, wear and tear arrives with fast bowlers and that is invariably that.
Just as there is no such thing as being slightly pregnant, the same applies to right-arm fast-bowlers' joints (usually the ankle and the knee). They can never bowl at much more than 80 per cent and 100 per cent effort brings terminal aggravation.
As for Old Trafford on Thursday, a 14-man squad is likely to be reduced to 13 because of Liam Plunkett's side strain. The background to that shows the festering differences between Duncan Fletcher and the counties when the national coach releases an England cricketer.
Fletcher wanted Plunkett to play county cricket to develop his batting, and apparently asked Durham to limit his bowling to ten overs a day.
County coach Martyn Moxon objected, saying "that won't be fair on the other bowlers", and a 15-over compromise was agreed upon only for Plunkett to go bust with the dreaded left-side intercostal muscle strain which usually takes weeks rather than days to clear.
The only way England will select Dalrymple as the second spinner is if they pick a five-man attack, but that would mean the omission of Warwickshire batsman Ian Bell, who made a century at Lord's last weekend.
They cannot possibly go into the match with only two pace bowlers, which is why the Flintoff situation leaves them with the most povertystricken Hobson's Choice imaginable.
A four-man attack must include three pace bowlers and that means the return of Sajid Mahmood for Plunkett - which is not a prospect that will cause Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer to lose too much sleep in the next three days.
A five-man attack would make more sense, but Fletcher and Andrew Strauss won't have that, even against a weakened Pakistan attack which includes two-and-a-bit bowlers of Test class.
This column suggested that the bookmakers had got the odds wrong way round in the recent one-day series against Sri Lanka. They made England favourites in four out of five matches in the series, during which they were walloped 5-0.
This is not a tipping column, but our patriotic satchelswingers - what a glorious Australian phrase - have done it again with Pakistan, who are second-favourites to win the current series.
Both sides might struggle to bowl each other out, but that classy tourists' batting line-up is likely to prosper against a threadbare England attack, rather than the other way around.