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Broad boosted by Flower backing

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Mike Hussey & Stuart Broad

England team director Andy Flower has given his backing to Stuart Broad ahead of the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley

Stuart Broad will prepare for this week's fourth Ashes Test at Headingley Carnegie with his determined battle to retain his place lifted by a ringing endorsement from England's team management.

The 23-year-old Nottinghamshire seamer has failed to have the impact he would have liked with the ball so far in the npower series with his six wickets costing 57.50 apiece.

Balanced against that has been the useful runs he scores down the order - most notably the half-century he scored during the drawn third Test at Edgbaston last week - as England weigh up their options for Friday's next Test.

Warwickshire batsman Jonathan Trott has been brought into the squad to give England the option of playing six batsmen if all-rounder Andrew Flintoff fails a fitness test on his troublesome right knee.

But Steve Harmison and Ryan Sidebottom are also in the 14-man party, providing extra competition for Broad.

Such is the faith in Broad, however, that team director Andy Flower has attempted to give him a timely lift by defending his contribution to the Ashes so far.

"He has handled everything that international cricket has thrown at him incredibly well since he came in, I think he is a fantastic young cricketer now and he is going to be even better as he progresses and as the team progresses," enthused Flower.

Stuart Broad

Broad demonstrated his all-round prowess with an attractive half-century at Edgbaston

"Yes, he has had a quiet series with the ball but he has chipped in every now and then and he is part of that five-man attack and that attack has to dovetail a little.

"It's not always you taking all the wickets, sometimes it is you that has to build up the pressure, sometimes you are the man missing out on the wickets and the kudos.

"I am very happy with Stuart, he is a great competitor who is learning about bowling and batting in the best arena possible and he is doing very well."

Broad can point to another innings of note on his last Test appearance at Headingley - an unbeaten 67 against South Africa in a losing cause last year - as evidence that he contributes more than just his bowling.

"His innings at Edgbaston was impressive and the last time we played at Headingley he played an even more impressive knock against the South Africans," stressed Flower. "That is a factor that is taken into account but we will, once we know the fitness situation, try to balance the side as best as possible."

Flintoff, meanwhile, remains bullish about his prospects of playing, but until England have a definitive diagnosis - which probably will not arrive until the morning of the game - they can at least assess bowling options after failing to bowl out Australia on the final day at Edgbaston on Monday.

"The key is dovetailing the bowling attack and different conditions will offer different bowlers advantages. Maybe at times at Edgbaston the hit the deck bowlers didn't get as much out of it as the skiddier bowlers," added captain Andrew Strauss.

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