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Beating the Aussies again would be even more satisfying than in 2005

BACK in 2005, Andrew Flintoff was at the absolute peak of his powers. Named Man-of-the-Series in that unforgettable Ashes victory over Australia on home soil, it wasn&rsquo;t long before the powerful Lancashire all-rounder was being recognised as the leading player in the world by top cricketing almanac, Wisden.<br /><br />Now, four years on, Flintoff is still very much feared among the cricketing elite but, by his own admission, is in a much different place.<br /><br />His fast, aggressive bowling style and big-hitting with the bat soon took their toll and culminated in an agonising two-year spell on the sidelines, taking in no fewer than four ankle operations.<br /><br />Thankfully, Freddie was back in time to tour the West Indies earlier in the year but a further knee injury sustained on Indian Premier League duty with the Chennai Super Kings proved another setback and threatened to rule him out of the entire Ashes series. <br /><br />&ldquo;Fragile Freddie&rdquo; came the call from his doubters.<br /><br />But now, after surgery and five hours work a day with physio Dave Roberts, Flintoff is back and has the Aussies in his sights once again with the first Test at Cardiff starting on Wednesday. &ldquo;Building up to 2005 was great,&rdquo; the 31-year-old told City.A.M. &ldquo;I had everything my own way and that lasted throughout the series.<br /><br />&ldquo;Then it changed a little bit, with injuries and form, and have had two years of rehabilitation on various parts of my body. To play a major role and beat them again would be satisfying for different reasons.<br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of hard work that&rsquo;s gone into getting this far and if we were to pull off something special, then it would be the most gratifying acheivement of my career.&rdquo; Unlike 2005, however, Flintoff has a much different dilemma on his hands as he looks to exact revenge on the Aussies for their 2007 Ashes whitewash Down Under &ndash; earning his place in the side.<br /><br />Since undergoing surgery, stirring performances from the likes of batsman Ravi Bopara and seamers Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan has left Flintoff with precious little time to find some form with Lancashire and ease his way back into the reckoning. &ldquo;The side has changed over the past few months but players have progressed and it looks a good unit, I just wouldn&rsquo;t mind getting involved and playing in it as well,&rdquo; he joked.<br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s competition in this side in every department and players in every position knocking on the door. You have to play well to stay in this side and that&rsquo;s the good for the squad and the team and is healthy for it.<br /><br />&ldquo;People just can&rsquo;t sit back and think they are secure and not sure that hunger otherwise someone will sneak up on the blindside and sneak that spot.&rdquo;<br /><br />Even without the likes of retired quintet Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist, Flintoff has huge respect for the Australians but insists this England side has what it takes to repeat the success of 2005.<br /><br />&ldquo;The Aussies always seem to find someone to come in and fill a hole, don&rsquo;t they,&rdquo; he went on. &ldquo;Apart from the spin department, they&rsquo;ve done that again. They are a formidable team, they are No1 in the world, but we can&rsquo;t get too carried away with them, we&rsquo;ve got to get our game right.&nbsp; <br /><br />&ldquo;I believe we have an Ashes-winning team. We will start as slight underdogs but I&rsquo;m confident we can do something special.&rdquo;<br /><br />Freddie is an ambassador for Sure Men Sport, which provides unbeatable protection.<br /><br />Visit www.suremen.co.uk to find out how you could win a pair of tickets to The Ashes Series every 24 hours.<br />