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Flintoff targets Bangladesh comeback

Andrew Flintoff said he hoped to be back for England’s tour of Bangladesh in February after bowing out of Test cricket as an Ashes winner.

The 31-year-old all-rounder’s career has been blighted by injuries and Flintoff has now decided his body can no longer stand the strain of Test cricket although he still wants to play in one-dayers.

Flintoff, the star of England’s 2005 Ashes campaign, did not play a big role with bat or ball during the team’s 197-run victory in the fifth Test at the Oval where they beat Australia on Sunday to take this year’s series 2-1.

But he did run out Australia captain Ricky Ponting with a superb direct hit on Sunday just when the star batsman was threatening to score a hundred.

Flintoff said winning with more than a day to spare was that it had brought an operation on his right knee forward.

Fears about whether his latest injury would allow Flintoff to get through a full Test saw him left out of the fourth match of the Ashes series, where Australia levelled at 1-1 with an innings and 80-run win.

“The fortunate thing about winning a day early is that they have brought my op forward,” fast bowler and hard-hitting batsman Flintoff told reporters at England’s hotel here on Monday.

“I can get that done tonight – then it’s all about getting fit.”

He added: “The harsh reality is now that I need to get my knee sorted out.”

Flintoff, selected in several England one-day squads for upcoming tournaments, including next month’s Champions Trophy in South Africa, said he did not expect to be playing again before the New Year.

“Realistically I think before Christmas I’m going to struggle.

“Obviously I’ve retired from Test cricket but there’s a tour to Bangladesh which I desperately want to be involved in. So realistically I think that could be my first cricket after this Test.”

Unlike four years ago, when England marked their Ashes triumph with an open-topped bus parade through the streets of London, this time around celebrations were more restrained.

Pictures of a clearly hung-over Flintoff struggling to get on the bus the morning after England’s Ashes triumph in 2005 are still fondly recalled by many fans but Flintoff said there had been no repeat after Sunday’s success.

“I remember 2005 – contrary to popular belief – 2005 was fantastic, it almost snuck up on us. I lived for the moment then and celebrated hard. But this time it was something which I savoured.

“It was quite nice – all the families came over.

“I sat with my wife and my kids, my dad who has done so much for me throughout my career.

“It was very different but in a lot of ways far more enjoyable.”

He added: “I loved playing Test cricket – it feels strange talking about it in the past tense. It’s one of those things you don’t want to end – but like all things it comes to an end at some point and I couldn’t ask for a better way for it to finish.”

Flintoff, England’s captain when they were thrashed 5-0 in Australia in 2006/07, praised current skipper Andrew Strauss by saying: “I think in a roundabout way we got to the right man for the job.

“There was lot of speculation (about who would be captain) between me and him for the last Ashes series in 2006/07.

“We got beat but it’s enabled Straussy through different circumstances to take over.

“Straussy leads by example, not just with his batting but with the way he conducts himself. He’s a popular lad.

“I’m sure in four or five years’ time when someone else is sat in this chair being asked what Andrew Strauss was like as a captain… he was a belter.”

England’s form nosedived after 2005 and Flintoff said: “If there’s any lesson to learn from 2005 now, it’s to go for domination, to try to get number one in the world.”

Flintoff was particularly encouraged by the form of Stuart Broad, who many believe could be his successor as England’s lead all-rounder.

The paceman was named man-of-the-match at the Oval after taking five for 37 as Australia were bowled out for just 160 in their first innings and Flintoff said: “He’s better than me in a lot of ways,”

“He’s only 23 and he’s performing at the highest level.”

Flintoff’s close friend and England team-mate Stephen Harmison is reported to be considering his Test future but he urged the Durham quick, who has taken 226 Test wickets, to carry on.

“If I was Steve Harmison and could bowl like that I would keep going,”.

“If you ask any batsman in the world ‘who do you not want to face?’ it would be Steve Harmison.

“He could end up being one of the greats for England.”

Source: AFP

Added on - August 25, 2009 | Filed under Sports