views

Hero Flintoff's still fighting fit

ANDREW FLINTOFF eased concerns over his fitness for the rest of the Ashes series after firing England to an historic first win over Australia at Lord&rsquo;s for 75 years.<br /><br />The 31-year-old all-rounder took a match-winning 5-92 to help the hosts claim a 115-run victory in the second Test and open up a 1-0 series lead.<br />But Flintoff&rsquo;s heroic display was tainted by speculation he had suffered yet more discomfort in his troublesome right knee during a ferocious 11-over morning spell, which saw him tear through the stubborn Australian tail and earn his side victory.<br /><br />Persistent injuries have already forced Flintoff to bow out of Test cricket at the end of this series, but many now fear the Lancastrian could be forced to sit out the rest of the summer. Flintoff, however, refuted the speculation, insisting he wanted to finish the summer on a high by helping England repeat their famous Ashes triumph of 2005.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s never been my intention to bow out at Lord&rsquo;s,&rdquo; stressed Flintoff, who was named man of the match in his final Test at the home of cricket. &ldquo;I want to be in an Ashes-winning team come the last Test match at the Oval. To be on that podium at the last Test will be the perfect way for me to go. <br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve three Tests to go and I will do anything to get out onto that field and finish this series. There were a couple of twinges in the knee, however it&rsquo;s encouraging that I can run in and bowl the amount of overs I have done today so that bodes well for three more Test matches.&rdquo;<br /><br />That was music to the ears of England captain Andrew Strauss, who hailed the performance of his talismanic all-rounder.<br /><br />&ldquo;He said to me that I wasn&rsquo;t getting the ball out of his hand until he had all the wickets,&rdquo; Strauss said. &ldquo;Freddie was right in the zone. He&rsquo;s got a great heart and that&rsquo;s what gets him over the line. He was like a bull chasing a red rag. He was dying to get out there and play.&rdquo;<br /><br />Incredibly, this was only Flintoff&rsquo;s third five-wicket haul in his 76-Test career for England and his first since taking 5-78 against Australia at The Oval four years ago. But his timely intervention ensured Australia missed out on a world-record run chase of 522 with the remaining five wickets going for 93 runs before lunch. <br /><br />Flintoff accounted for three of the wickets, removing Brad Haddin with the fourth ball of the day, then clean bowling Nathan Hauritz and Peter Siddle. <br /><br />Spinner Graeme Swann played his part, removing talismanic Michael Clarke for 136 and battling Mitchell Johnson for 63, leaving Strauss reflecting on a dream come true.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a really special victory for those 11 guys,&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;Things went really well for us this morning. To win an Ashes Test match at Lord&rsquo;s is something many guys have dreamed of doing over the last 50 or 60 years or so and to be the guys who pulled it off is pretty special.&rdquo;