Strauss wants 'blaze of glory' finale for Flintoff

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> England captain Andrew Strauss wants all-rounder Andrew Flintoff to depart the Test scene in a &quot;blaze of glory&quot; by helping the side regain the Ashes.

Updated: August 19, 2009 12:41 IST
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England captain Andrew Strauss wants all-rounder Andrew Flintoff to depart the Test scene in a "blaze of glory" by helping the side regain the Ashes at the Oval.

The five-match series is all square at 1-1 heading into the final Test at the south London ground, which starts on Thursday.

But as Australia hold the Ashes, following their 5-0 series win on home soil in 2006/07 when Flintoff was England's captain, they need only a draw at the Oval to retain them while Strauss's side must win to reclaim Test cricket's oldest prize.

Flintoff, the star of England's 2005 Ashes series win, has seen his career blighted by injuries, most recently a right knee problem.

And before the second Test at Lord's, where his fast bowling led England to victory, he announced he would retire from the five-day format at the end of this series.

However, the England management - worried about whether he could cope with the strain of back-to-back Tests - left him out of the side that played in the fourth Test at Headingley.

But in his absence England were thrashed by an innings and 80 runs inside three days as Australia levelled the series at 1-1.

Flintoff insisted he was fit to play at the time but Strauss insisted his omission had created no lingering sense of bitterness.

"I've spoken to 'Fred' about the whole situation," Strauss told reporters at the Oval yesterday.

"We both know where each other stands on it - and it's just not an issue between us.

"At this stage of a tour, maybe people try to create things out of nothing - from in our ranks, there is not an issue there at all."

Strauss added he was encouraged by Flintoff's practice form, saying: "He got it through (in the nets) as he normally does. We're very encouraged by what we've seen so far.

"It looks very promising. He's had some good time off; the swelling has gone down; we're happy with what he's done -things are looking pretty good.

"He's had a good rest, and we are very confident we can get a performance out of him with both bat and ball.

"He's obviously a massive player for us. We're very fortunate to have a guy of that quality in our side -especially one that tends to 'up' his performances against Australia.

"Going into a must-win game like this, I'm far more comfortable as captain seeing his name on the team sheet.

"We all want him to go out in a blaze of glory. A lot of his scripts have been written that way so far in his career, and that would be a fitting end."

However, Strauss said the match was about more than Flintoff.

"We want to win this game - for the country, for the coaches, for all the hard work we've put in as well as him.

"So we're not solely motivated by that. We know the country are desperate for us to do well - and I just struggle not to be very excited by what lies ahead this week.

"It's going to be a massive occasion and one, I hope, we'll treasure for the rest of our careers."

And he added that, after such a comprehensive defeat at Headingley, which led England to drop batsman Ravi Bopara and bring in Jonathan Trott for a debut, winning the Ashes now would arguably be a greater achievement than in 2005 when Michael Vaughan's men led the series 2-1 heading to the Oval.

"It's been a very different series this time. Last time, every game was very close; this time, it's been a little bit more see-sawing," opening batsman Strauss said.

"From the situation we are in now, it will be a great achievement to turn it round and to win here this week." Strauss, coy over whether England would field a second spinner, insisted the state of the series would not compel his side to take needless risks.

"The important thing about a Test match is you can't win it on day one," he said. "You've got to earn the right to win it - and that means by playing good, solid cricket for the first three days."

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