Flintoff targets Ashes date for comeback

Published: Saturday, April 9, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Manchester:Andrew Flintoff said he was on course to be fully fit for the start of the Ashes Test series against Australia which gets underway in July.

The Lancashire and England all-rounder, widely regarded as vital to the Test side's hopes of ending a run of eight straight Ashes series defeats, underwent surgery on his left ankle in February which prevented him playing in the One-day series in South Africa.

Flintoff, 27, has since being following a rehabilitation programme at Lancashire devised by the Old Trafford club's physisotherapist.

Injuries and selection decisions have meant that Flintoff has still to play a Test against Australia, the world's number one side, despite 45 England appearances in the five-day game.

But he insisted on Friday that he had every confidence he'd take the field against Ricky Ponting's men at Lord's on July 21 for what will be the first Test of a five-match series.

"It's coming on well. It's nine weeks on Sunday since the operation and it's been going all right," said Flintoff.

"I've been working with Dave Roberts every day, a lot of early mornings doing a wide array of things. I've been trying to keep my general fitness good as well as working the ankle in my left leg.

"Each day we are doing more and more and seeing what reaction I'm getting from it. If I react well to it we push on, if it's not too good we just pull back a little bit because we've got time on our side."

With the County Championship starting next week, Flintoff eased his way back into action on Monday. Playing as a batsman only in an inter-squad friendly he made 119 from 99 balls.

"It felt fine and I managed to get a few," Flintoff said. "I wasn't running between the wickets 100 percent, I was just trying to look after myself a little bit.

"I didn't field but it's very encouraging having spent some time in the middle and it was nice to be out there again."

Flintoff did not set a date for his return for club or Country with Lancashire starting their season in the County Championship against Somerset on Wednesday.

"At the minute we are just taking it day by day. I'll train over the weekend and I'll train next week but at the moment we're not looking at time plans and saying I want to be playing by this date. It's very much suck it and see.

"The first Test match isn't until July 21 so there's a long time between now and then but I do want to get playing cricket as soon as I can.

"I've done the fitness work, I've done the gym work, I'm just looking forward to playing, whenever that may be.

"Obviously the batting will come before the bowling, the bowling is probably a bit further away. I've done a couple of walk throughs but that's about it."

Flintoff has scored 2,239 Test runs to date at an average of 32.44 with four hundreds and a best of 167 and also taken 110 wickets at 34.80 with a best of five for 58.

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