Strauss eyes top spot
England today begin a Test era without Andrew Flintoff with triumphant Ashes captain Andrew Strauss targeting becoming world number ones.
All-rounder Flintoff, 31, undergoes exploratory surgery on his injured right knee tomorrow after celebrating his 79th and final Test with another series victory over Australia.
Fittingly, he effected the pivotal dismissal of the innings when he ran out Australia captain Ricky Ponting for 66 with a direct hit from mid-on.
Otherwise, it was a quiet finale for Flintoff, hero of the 2005 success, but England will find it hard to cover for such an inspirational figure as they attempt to better their current world standing of fifth.
“Obviously, he won’t be playing Test cricket for us again, which is a very sad thing,” said Strauss. “Clearly his body just can’t take it any more, and I think we all understand that.
“He’ll be desperate to contribute in any way he can for England, in 50 and 20-over cricket.
"The most important thing is he needs to get his body in good shape again. He needs to take whatever steps he can to do that.
“At least he knows what he’s going to have to go through. But it must be soul-destroying - very, very hard to have to go through that.
“But when you win an Ashes series it makes it worthwhile, and there will be some great times ahead of him too.”
There was less fanfare on this occasion than in 2005, when Michael Vaughan and company brought the country to a standstill.
And the challenge ahead, following the 197-run win at the Brit Oval, cannot get much tougher for England: they face South Africa, the world’s new number one side after Australia’s fall from grace to fourth, away this winter.
“We are not the number one side in the world, and we are far from it at the moment - we are honest enough to know that,” said Strauss.
“To become the number one side in the world you have to be winning consistently home and away. Our next challenge is a massive one, away in South Africa, probably as hard a tour as you can go on.
“But we can take confidence from this and the long-term goal is to be the number one side in the world. It is going to take a lot of graft to get there.”
Strauss is one of the survivors of the historic success over Australia four years ago and went one better this time as both winning captain and man of the series.
Victory was sweeter for that, while Strauss could also look forward to a bright future containing the likes of Stuart Broad - Flintoff’s long-term successor as England’s premier all-rounder - and Jonathan Trott, who made a century on his Test debut.
“For me personally, I suppose it is, because I’ve captained the side,” said Strauss. “We’ve moved forward from 2005 - very different personalities and a different management team.
“We’ve got a young side and can get a lot better than we are at the moment. We’re still pretty inconsistent, as we’ve ably demonstrated in this series.
“But we’ve shown some guts and determination. For Stuart Broad to come back after a tough first two Test matches and bowl as well as he has says a lot for his character.
“Then there’s the way Jonathan Trott came into this game. You look at it, and it astounds you - the biggest game in all our careers, and you add to that you’re making a debut.
“To go out and play with as much composure as he did says a huge amount about him. In an Ashes series, there’s nowhere to hide. If you’ve got any weaknesses they’ll be exploited.”