Flintoff ignites Ashes once again

BIRMINGHAM: Andrew Flintoff’s 74 took England into a first innings lead against Australia in the rain-affected third Ashes Test here at Edgbaston as the hosts looked to cement their 1-0 series lead.

England, at tea on the fourth day, were 316-7 in reply to Australia’s 263, a lead of 53. Flintoff, the bowling

hero of England’s 115-run second Test win at Lord’s and the star of the 2005 Ashes, fell shortly before tea in what he has said will be his final series in the five-day format.

Trying to withdraw the bat against off-spinner Nathan Hauritz and play no shot, he gloved to first slip Michael Clarke having shared rapid stands of 89 and 52 with Matthew Prior and Stuart Broad respectively. Broad was unbeaten on 20 and Graeme Swann four not out at the interval.

With only a session and a day left in a match where the whole of Saturday’s play was washed out, Ashes holders Australia’s chances of levelling the five-match series ahead

of next week’s fourth Test at Headingley were fading. They did though

put England on the backfoot earlier in the day and the hosts were 168-5,

still 93 behind, when Flintoff joined Prior. But by the time the sixth-wicket duo were separated they’d added 89 in 97 balls to take England to within sight of a first innings lead.

Flintoff then pressed on and continued to play commendably straight. England were 159-4 at lunch with Ian Bell 46 not out. Bell completed a 96-ball fifty when he clipped improving left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson off his pads. But having survived several close calls, Bell’s luck ran out on 53 when Johnson swung a ball back into his pads to have him LBW.

Prior revived the innings. Flintoff followed up by cover-driving Ben Hilfenhaus, who before lunch had dismissed England captain Andrew Strauss (69) and Paul Collingwood, to the boundary. Prior (41) succumbed to Peter Siddle, miscuing a pull to substitute fielder Hughes at mid-on. England resumed on 116-2.