Barbados: Former Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne believes that all rounder Andrew Flintoff is crucial to England"s chances of winning the Ashes this year.
Warne, a man who knows a thing or two about how to win – and lose – the Ashes, yesterday warned England that they will not regain the little urn unless Flintoff is 100 per cent fit for the summer.
Given that Flintoff is sitting out the fourth Test against the West Indies in Barbados due to a muscle tear in his hip, which is the latest in a long line of injuries the talismanic all-rounder has suffered, it is by no means guaranteed.
"Andy Flintoff is the key to England winning the Ashes," Warne, a new commentator for Sky Sports, said.
"Not so much his batting but his bowling. He is the best bowler in the world right now. He drags his team along, with his personality, he is is inspirational," added Warne.
"If Flintoff''s not playing Australia will win the Ashes. If Fred plays they are even sides but without Fred Australia are slightly ahead as England will then rely too much on too few players," added Warne, who played in eight Ashes series and saw first hand Flintoff''s influence in England''s golden summer of 2005.
"Fred is also awful for left-handers to face and Australia will have four or five in their top six," Warne added.