Gilchrist wary of fit Flintoff in the Ashes

LONDON: Former Australia wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist is wary of the threat posed by Andrew Flintoff ahead of the upcoming Ashes series - but only if the England all-rounder is fully fit.

Flintoff was the star of England's 2005 Ashes series victory when Gilchrist, 37, who retired from Test cricket in 2008, was still a key member of the Australia batting line-up.

Lancashire hero Flintoff's pace and swing made him particularly awkward for even as gifted a left-handed batsman as Gilchrist to face. Australia's top six set to feature in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff starting on July 8 are four left-handers -- Simon Katich, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey and Marcus North.

But ever since the 2005 series, Flintoff has been troubled by a succession of injuries and only recently returned to first-class action this season following a knee problem.

"He is so awkward to face as a left-hander," Gilchrist told Wednesday's edition of Britain's Independent newspaper. "It's his physicality, his angle of attack, his height. I admire his controlled aggression.”

“He's in your face but not recklessly so. He creates an aura of control, even if you get a good shot away he has that look in his eye, and a demeanour, that suggests it is all part of a big plan,” added Gilchrist. “(Shane) Warne and (Glenn) McGrath -- they had the same quality. When I have faced Flintoff since he can still get his weaponry to that level. It's just he's not been able to do it consistently."

Australia, since winning the Ashes 5-0 on home soil in 2006-07 have seen the likes of openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, Gilchrist, leg-spin great Warne and champion fast bowler McGrath all retire from Test cricket.

But a new look side, still under the captaincy of Ricky Ponting, won a Test series in South Africa 2-1 earlier this year and Gilchrist said: "That group really surprised me and I'm very much encouraged."

"I'm also encouraged listening to Ricky. His enthusiasm is exceptional. In the past he's been criticised for not moulding a team,” said the left-hander. “Well, he's neither needed, nor had the chance, to do it before. He has the chance to develop this group and I think he is really excited by it. He wants to leave that legacy of formulating a team out of this fresh start."