Script written for Flintoff, says Strauss
Captain Andrew Strauss hopes returning talisman Andrew Flintoff’s final Test appearance can whip up a “perfect storm” for England in the quest for the Ashes.
All-rounder Flintoff, 31, will feature at the scene of England’s series triumph over Australia four years ago intent on manufacturing a repeat.
His marathon spell with the ball at the Brit Oval in 2005 earned him a five-wicket haul and somehow gave England a first-innings lead despite Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer hitting centuries.
It was a typically whole-hearted Flintoff display, and one which got the 23,500 capacity crowd roaring England on to the draw they required to regain the Ashes.
This time, with Flintoff set to bolster the team which was beaten convincingly by Australia at Headingley Carnegie, the hosts need to go one better and win the match.
It would be a fitting way for Flintoff, man of the match in England’s Lord’s victory but set to retire from Test cricket following a spate of injuries, to bow out.
“For a big game like this it is a massive plus to have him in the side, there’s no doubt about that,” said Strauss.
“It’s kind of the perfect storm. He’s going to be completely motivated to go out on a high – a must-win Ashes test, at home, full house. The script is written perfectly and that’s really encouraging.
“He can lift others with his performances but we won’t win the game just with his performances. We need all 11 of us to stand up and be counted.”
Strauss is relishing being able to call upon the tireless Flintoff with the ball, especially after his absence was keenly felt during the innings defeat at Headingley.
“I’m certainly very excited to have him back in the team for this Test,” Strauss said. “He’s determined to do well for the team.
“As is always the case there are lot of things said about him, what his role in the team is and all that stuff, but I know he is as motivated as anyone to do well for England this week.
“The thought of him charging in in his last Test and knocking over some Aussie wickets is quite exciting.”
England will assess Flintoff’s fitness further ahead of naming their side at the toss, but all the signs from the practice sessionsthis week were positive and the swelling on his knee has reportedly gone down.
Flintoff will return to bat at number seven in a revamped batting order which will see Ian Bell come in at first-wicket down, and Paul Collingwood and debutant Jonathan Trott likely to fill the number four and five positions.
The identity of the bowling attack, however, has yet to be established. England require 20 wickets at a ground which, although traditionally provides pace and bounce for the fast men, has resulted in a succession of first-class draws this summer.
Steve Harmison has enjoyed success at Test level before, including 12 months ago against South Africa, but England refused to release any of their 14-man squad, thus retaining the chance of fielding two spinners.
Whoever they field, however, Strauss has confidence in a unit which he claims is mentally tough enough for the biggest match in this country for four years.
“A lot of us have been through a lot,” Strauss said. “Some great times, like in 2005, which was as big a challenge as any team might have, and a lot of tough times in the last six or 12 months.
“Generally we have come through, guys are holding their heads up and we are as tight a unit know as we were at the start of the series.
“That was one of the things I said to the guys prior to Cardiff: regardless of what happens we are going to remain a tight unit. That has happened and it shows the guys are committed to the team.
“I’m absolutely certain we are going to come out and play well this week - I’ve got no doubt about it.
“The crowd will get behind us, there is going to be fantastic support for us and the guys are going to go out there in the right frame of mind and enjoy their cricket.
“Pressure is only something you put on yourself and that is not going to be something that will pre-occupy us.”
At some stage, though, with the series currently locked at 1-1, England might have to up the ante in striving for victory, which may include risking defeat.
“We’ve got to, it’s as simple as that,” Strauss said.
“But I would say you don’t start the game like that. Every Test match you play you go out there with the intention of winning but the way you win Test matches is to gain the advantage on the first two or three days and then push for victory on the final two days. You don’t win it on day one.”