~~England unscarred by past Ashes nightmares~~

Published: Sunday, November 5, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:England's cricket squad arrived here as captain Andrew Flintoff said his players come to Australia without bearing the scars of previous heavy Ashes Test defeats.

Star all-rounder Flintoff said he was leading a young side, eager to prove that last year's series win was no fluke as they arrived to begin preparations for the opening match of the five-Test series which gets underway in Brisbane on Nov 23.

"Our team has not been scarred by previous defeats, it's a young side that's looking to impress and looking to perform," said Flintoff, the star of the 2005 Ashes with 402 runs and 24 wickets in England's 2-1 series victory.

"The one thing that happened last time (2005 series) was to have a successful time that we all performed well at the same time and we're going to need to do that over the next few months.

"We've come here open-eyed, looking forward to playing in different conditions against the best team in the world.

"It is a young side and every challenge that's been put before them they have responded well to. I don't expect this series to be any different," he told his first press conference of the Australian tour.

Flintoff, chosen ahead of opening batsman Andrew Strauss to lead England in the injury absence of last year's skipper Michael Vaughan, said his ankle operated on this year is sound enough to enable him to bowl whatever is asked of him in the Ashes series.

Flintoff's recovery from ankle surgery has been one of the big talking points as England attempt to hold on to the Ashes urn they won in last year's unforgettable series at home.

England last year played Flintoff as a bowling all-rounder, batting at No.6, to enable the team to play five bowlers -- four pacemen and a spinner.

Flintoff said he had no fitness doubts and if asked to shoulder the same responsibility again in this year's series, he would do so.

"I'll bowl as much as the game dictates. From my point of view I'm going to get some overs under my belt," Flintoff said on Sunday.

"My body is not a concern and I'm just going to go into the games and bowl as I normally do and get some miles in the legs.

"The dynamics of the side is something we'll discuss with the coach (Duncan Fletcher).

"I'm a bowler and I'm not worried about the ankle. I've got the all clear.

"I'm pleased where I'm at. The India (Champions' Trophy) trip was important for me, having not played a lot of cricket in the (northern) summer.

"To get outside and bowl in the nets and to bowl against the West Indies, albeit for five overs, showed me where I'm at.

"Now I can just crack on, I can bowl in the nets, I feel 100 percent and the more I can play in the warm-up games here will show me that I'm in pretty good nick, so I'm pleased where I am at the moment."

Flintoff said all players in the squad were in the mix for selection for the opening Test at the Gabba.

"All 16 players are playing for a place in the first Test. One of the strengths of the team is competition for places in every department," he said.

"People have performed over the last few years and anyone in the squad can play in that first Test match.

"That's a nice position to be in and I'm sure over the next few weeks it will all unfold going into the first Test in Brisbane."

England's opening match on the tour will be a one-dayer against a Prime Minister's XI in Canberra on Friday.


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