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Lee - Flintoff has surprised us

Investec Test Series
Andrew Flintoff

All-rounder Andrew Flintoff has shone with both bat and ball for England © Getty Images

Andrew Flintoff's inexhaustible ability to raise the bar with each performance has taken Australia by surprise.

Flintoff, 27, bagged his second man-of-the-match award in the series as England took a 2-1 lead with the tense, three-wicket success at Trent Bridge, striking his fifth Test century as well as claiming crucial wickets in both Australian innings.

After missing previous Ashes encounters due to injury, the Lancastrian all-rounder is making quite an impression upon the opposition, piling up 322 runs and taking 19 wickets.

Particularly Brett Lee, whose similar outlook on the sport has served up some intriguing duels.

Andrew Flintoff

Brett Lee admits the way Flintoff has batted has taken Australia by complete surprise © Getty Images

"We have always known he is a world-class player but he has surprised us the way he has batted," Lee admitted.

"He is so aggressive and positive but as a bloke who can hit massive sixes he can also play as a number three batsman would.

"Then to come out and bowl the way he does - and he has done that over four matches - has been amazing.

"He is a supreme athlete, definitely one of a kind and it is great England have found that. You cannot give Freddie enough raps. He is pure quality."

The contest between the pair on the crucial fourth day was high drama as Flintoff quelled Lee's assault with the bat before having the top of off-stump traumatised by one of the fastest deliveries of the series from the New South Welshman.

Andrew Flintoff & Brett Lee

Lee and Flintoff enjoy competing against each other © Getty Images

"Over the past four Test matches whenever we come up against each other we have a bit of a smile and wink," said Lee. "It is a bit like groundhog day.

"Although you are out there playing for your country and you always want to do your best, you can enjoy yourself too and I especially enjoy batting and bowling against a guy like Andrew Flintoff.

"When he hit me on the foot with a yorker and I fell over, I was pretty embarrassed but he just had a little bit of a laugh.

"When he came out to bat it was the same thing and we've had that healthy type of competition that is great for cricket."

The greatest Test series this country has played host to for 24 years - and perhaps ever - takes in its final stop at the Oval next week with Australia needing to win to retain the Ashes.

England celebrate

The last three Tests have been some of the most closely-fought ever © Getty Images

With the last three matches all going down to the wire, it promises to be another nailbiting week as Lee reflected: "The last three Test matches have been the best three Test matches I have ever played in. The most amazing three finishes.

"This last one was quite tough, it's always bad to lose.

"But we can hold our heads high just thinking that we got so close to winning.

"All the way through we have had great crowds, awesome cricket: there's been some fantastic bowling, some fantastic batting, some big hits and it's what Test cricket is all about.

"As players we try to be entertainers, put on a show and send the people away pleased they have paid their money."

Whatever happens in the capital, where Australia opened up by sending England to a humiliating defeat at Lord's, the performances of the hosts will have shocked some down under.

"There was a lot of talk about 5-0 but I always knew from ball one, especially after the one-dayers, that we were up against a world-class side," insisted Lee. "When they play with aggression and confidence they are tough to beat.

"It is going to be another great contest. They always say things happen in threes so hopefully England have had their three matches and this one will go our way."

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