England put faith in Flintoff

BIRMINGHAM: England head into the third Ashes Test here at Edgbaston confident of all-rounder Andrew Flintoff’s but without Kevin Pietersen against an Australia side looking to level the series at 1-1.

Flintoff’s aggressive spell on the final day of the second Test sealed England’s 115-run win as they defeated Australia in an Ashes match at Lord’s for the first time in 75 years. But soon after that match, batting star Pietersen gave in to a longstanding Achilles problem and announced he would take no further part in the series.

Flintoff, whose career has been blighted by injuries, said before the match at Lord’s that this would be his final Test series. A key figure during his country’s 2005 Ashes triumph, doubts persist over whether Flintoff’s knee injury will hold up for the final three matches of the series.

Strauss will be prepared to use Flintoff as and when appropriate. Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke was not surprised that England were pulling out all the stops to get him on the field.

There were worrying echoes for England of that freak injury when Ian Bell, drafted in to replace Pietersen, turned his right ankle during a football warm-up on Monday. England’s squad does not contain a spare batsman after the selectors made clear that Bell was their man to replace Pietersen.

Ashes holders Australia are again set to be without fast bowler Brett Lee because of the side injury. That wouldn’t be an issue if left-armerMitchell Johnson wasn’t struggling for line and length. The accurate Stuart Clark is waiting in the wings but the signs are that Australia will persist with Johnson.

Opening batsman Phillip Hughes found some form during warm-up win over Northamptonshire. But it was a collective first innings batting failure at Lord’s that put Australia on the back foot. Skipper Ricky Ponting

will be keen to prove that was a mere blip.