Colly welcomes Flintoff return

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Andrew Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff relaxes with England Lions in Vadodara

Paul Collingwood has welcomed the news that Andrew Flintoff is poised to make his first tentative steps back from injury with England Lions in India this week.

England’s one-day captain has been forced to do without the talented all-rounder for most of his captaincy since succeeding Michael Vaughan in the role last summer as Flintoff battled with long-standing ankle problems.

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But the prospect of having Flintoff to balance his emerging one-day side was greeted with cautious optimism by Collingwood after it was announced that the 30-year-old Lancastrian is to play three one-day matches for the Lions this week as a specialist batsman.

“We hope he can come back and be 100 per cent fit,” said Collingwood. “It was a shame last year that he came back and still felt a niggle.

“It’s horrible for a guy to go through an injury like that, have the operation and go through all the rehab and still feel the injury.”

Flintoff was ruled out of the one-day series against West Indies, Collingwood’s first in charge, while he recovered from his ankle problems and recovered sufficiently to play four one-day internationals against India at the end of the summer.

His performances in those matches were enough to book Flintoff’s place at the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, but he was wincing in pain when he bowled and had a fourth operation last October in a make-or-break bid to save his career as an all-rounder.

Paul Collingwood

Paul Collingwood practices in Napier ahead of the fourth ODI on Wednesday © Getty Images

“What you’re hoping for is a 100 per cent fit Andrew Flintoff because we all know what he can do on the park and we all want him back,” said Collingwood.

“But we want to make sure he’s ready and raring to go and feeling no pain, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he’s going to be like that.”

The welcome news on Flintoff came as England prepared for the fourth encounter in their five-match one-day series against New Zealand at McLean Park on Wednesday.

Having lost the first two matches, to set up the series for a decider in Christchurch on Saturday would be a major achievement for England as they attempt to build on recent series wins over India and Sri Lanka.

“We put a solid performance in during the last game and that’s going to give us a bit of extra confidence going into the next game,” added Collingwood, who trained with the rest of the squad despite suffering from a cold.

“We know what we’ve got to do: we had to win three games on the trot to win the series and we’ve won one of them, and there are two more finals to go.

“In many ways those two defeats were a test of character for us and we want to move on, learn from them and hopefully it will make us a stronger side in the future.”

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