Flintoff to be fit on time for Ashes

Published: Monday, April 25, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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London:England hope Andrew Flintoff is ahead of schedule in his bid to regain full fitness for the Ashes series against Australia.

The Lancashire all-rounder, who has never played a Test match against Australia, returned to action after ankle surgery in a one-day game against Middlesex on Sunday.

He played as a specialist batsman but Lancashire manager Mike Watkinson thinks he will be able to bowl to a reasonable level in a few weeks.

"If you said that being fit for the Ashes series is the target, then he's ahead of schedule," said Watkinson.

Flintoff's last taste of competitive action had been in the fourth Test against South Africa in Johannesburg on January 17.

Following his operation, he has been swimming and hill walking as part of a carefully supervised rehabilitation programme.

Flintoff's next appearance could be in Lancashire's Championship Division Two game at Worcester, which starts on Wednesday, providing England coach Duncan Fletcher gives the go ahead.

"We'll look at the situation on Tuesday and take it from there, but if we have orders from on high not to play him then obviously we won't," said Watkinson.

"We're monitoring him on a day-to-day basis and at the moment he's not bowling flat out.He's probably at 50 percent and could push it beyond that, but there's no need to do that at this stage. We can accommodate him as a batter and when he starts bowling, he'll be a very useful asset."

It is unlikely England will pick Flintoff for the two Tests against Bangladesh which begin the summer's international programme.

They will be followed by the triangular NatWest Series and three-match NatWest Challenge before the first Ashes Test gets under way at Lord's on 21 July.

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