London:England coach Andy Flower has insisted his side can win the Ashes even if star men Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen are ruled out of the remainder of the series through injury.
Fast bowler Flintoff defied a knee problem, the latest in a lengthy list of injuries, to take five wickets for 92 runs as England won their first Test against Australia at Lord's in 75 years on Monday.
England's 115-run victory put them 1-0 up with three to play in what Flintoff had said, on the eve of the match, would be his final Test series.
Pietersen, meanwhile, has been struggling with an Achilles injury that dates back to England's tour of the Caribbean in April and a decision on whether he needs an operation could be made this week.
It was widely thought that if England were to regain the Ashes, both Pietersen and Flintoff had to feature throughout.
But Flower, asked by reporters at England's hotel here on Tuesday if his team could win the series without their two star names, said: "Definitely, without a doubt.
"But we are going to have to play very good cricket.
Remember, we are playing against the No 1 side in the world.
We know that they will re-group and come back strongly at us." Flower denied reports that Pietersen had already ruled himself out of the third Test, which starts at Edgbaston on July 30.
"No that's not the case at all, definitely not. I don't know whether an operation is the right action to take, that will be made by the end of this week, those sorts of decisions," Flower said.
South Africa born batsman Pietersen has looked a shadow of his usual self and in four innings during the two Tests so far has made 153 runs at a modest average of 38.25 with a best of 69.
Both Flintoff and Pietersen have taken a variety of pain-killing injections and Flower said: "Kev is seeing a specialist later this week and they'll assess his Achilles problem.
"We just get the expert advice and take it from there.
Fred obviously had a tough, physical game but chatting to him yesterday (Monday) afternoon he was very bullish about being ready for the third Test.
"But obviously with his injury record we've got to be a little bit careful about the wear and tear on his body. But he can have a proper rest over the next week and he will also be re-assessed."
Australia captain Ricky Ponting had no doubt on Monday that Flintoff, the key man in England's 2005 Ashes series win, would feature at Edgbaston, saying: "There is no danger of Flintoff not playing the way he bowled at Lord's."
Former Zimbabwe wicket-keeper/batsman Flower was guarded when asked about the prospects of both Flintoff and Pietersen playing in the third Test.
"Well they are both seeing specialists so I'd rather not make a prediction and let the medical guys make a decision.
That's why we employ the best men around, to give us that advice," Flower said.
But he insisted he would have no qualms about dropping either man if they were not Test-match fit.
"I don't think those sorts of decisions take an incredible amount of strength," Flower said.
"If guys are fit enough to get through and contribute to winning Test matches then they will be selected. If they are not, it's not a tough decision. They are just simply not fit enough to do it, so you don't select them."
Flintoff bowled 10 overs straight on Monday and afterwards England captain Andrew Strauss revealed the champion quick had told him he would not stop until the match was won.
Flower admitted concern at the length of Flintoff's spell but was adamant Strauss would have called a halt if he felt the former captain had been on too long.
"I was sitting up there thinking 'I'd quite like to see him take a break'," Flower said.
"But he carried on and he feels strong so it worked out okay in the end, I hope. If Strauss had wanted to stop him he would have done so, he's the captain and he would have made that decision, that's pretty simple."
And with the likes of fast bowler Stephen Harmison, in the squad at Lord's but not selected for the Test and left-arm quick Ryan Sidebottom to call on, Flower said England could regain the Ashes even without the menace of Flintoff.