Vaughan aiming for Ashes

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Michael Vaughan

Michael Vaughan believes England are better than they were in 2005 © Getty Images

Test captain Michael Vaughan bases his belief that England can wrest the Ashes back from Australia next summer on strength in depth - and the eventual return of key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff.

Vaughan, 33, is conscious of developing momentum towards the 2009 visit of Australia immediately but will have to take the first steps towards that target without Flintoff once again, against New Zealand at Lord's next week, due to injury.

Flintoff incurred a left side strain bowling for Lancashire against Durham at Old Trafford on Friday and will be sidelined for the first two of three Tests against the New Zealanders.

Given his influence on the 2-1 triumph over the Aussies three years ago, however, when he scored 402 runs and took 24 wickets, Flintoff's ability will be vital.

"A year before 2005 me and Fletch (former England coach Duncan Fletcher) sat down and said that might be a year too early for the team," Vaughan said.

"As I sit here now I honestly think England have got a very, very good chance next summer.

"I think we are in a better position now than we were a year before '05.

"There are a lot of good players around and a lot of good things happening with the England set-up."

One of the reasons for such optimism is the emergence of a new crop of fast bowlers - none of the fabled ‘fab four’ pacemen of 2005 were in the team which came from 1-0 down to beat the Kiwis in March.

Like Flintoff, back from a fourth ankle operation at the start of this summer, Simon Jones has been bedevilled by injury while Mathew Hoggard and Steve Harmison were axed for poor displays.

The door is not closed on either according to the England hierarchy but Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and James Anderson are the men in possession.

"We have bowlers that swing the ball and I think one of the key areas to beating Australia is swinging it," said Vaughan.

"Also Monty Panesar spinning the ball, in our conditions.

"From the experience I have of playing with Monty he seems to spin it more in this country than abroad.

"So if we get the ball swinging and Monty spinning it like he can you can get 20 wickets against that Australian side, and that is where you're going to beat them.

"Then if you look at the unit we have in terms of batting it will be a real battle who gets the most runs and I firmly believe we could do that."

England's long-term plan now appears to revolve around Flintoff slipping a place down the order to number seven and operating as part of a three-pronged pace unit.

Before Flintoff's latest setback, Vaughan said: "It is great for us to know as an England set-up that Andrew Flintoff is close to coming back because without question we're a better team with him in it.

"Freddie's bowling speaks for itself; he could not bowl for a year, you put a penny down and he would hit it, he's that good.

"His batting takes a little bit more time, so I think you can also take the pressure off him. Batting at seven could be a really good position for him.

"You look at players around the world and (Adam) Gilchrist averaged 55 batting at seven, playing a very attacking role; Daniel Vettori has averaged 48 over the past two years, batting at eight.

"At number six you really are judged as, if you like, a proper player, a real purist of a player.

"Andrew Flintoff is best when he's attacking and taking the game to the opposition and that is exactly the role we will expect from him if he bats at number seven."

In the short term, Flintoff's most likely return to international action will be in the one-day series against the Black Caps next month.