Andrew Strauss will manage Andrew Flintoff’s fitness carefully after revealing he expects the England all-rounder to play in the third npower Test.
Flintoff is troubled by a chronic knee problem that threatens his participation in the remaining three matches of the Ashes series, which Australia trail 1-0.
Captain Strauss is confident the team’s talisman, who will retire from Test cricket after the series, will spearhead England’s attack when the series resumes at Edgbaston on Thursday. But the England captain will have one eye on the remaining fixtures at Headingley and The Oval when deciding Flintoff’s workload.
“A lot depends on how much bowling Freddie does at Edgbaston,” said Strauss.
“He’s very keen to play in the remaining three Tests and will do everything he can to make sure he’s available for those.
“So far it doesn’t look like his knee injury has deteriorated but the reality is that you enter a Test match with everyone 100 per cent fit to play, otherwise they’re not in the team.
“As captain, I will be juggling the bowling attack according to what the match situation dictates.
“Clearly, we don’t want Fred to be bowling millions of overs when conditions aren’t in his favour. That’s important to look at.
“But if we get into a winning position and he’s the right bowler to take us to victory, then we’ll be expecting him to put in a similar sort of effort to Lord’s.
“All the indications so far are that Andrew will be fine for Edgbaston. We need to see how he goes over the next couple of days during practice.
“But at this stage we are very confident that he will be ready and obviously he will want to build on his performance at Lord’s.”
Strauss confirmed Warwickshire’s Ian Bell will bat at four as the replacement for Kevin Pietersen, who must the rest of the series following Achilles surgery.
In 10 Tests against Australia Bell has struggled to make his presence felt – his average of 25.10 against them compares poorly with his overall Test mark of 40.59.
The Warwickshire batsman has been targeted by Australia in the past but Strauss is backing him to demonstrate his class on his home county ground.
“What a great opportunity for Ian to come back and show what a good player he is, which I’m very confident he will do,” said Strauss.
“He can also clear up any misgivings that people have about his record against Australia. I’m very excited about having him back.
“He’s had to dig deep to get back into the team, has done everything right and I’m sure he’ll be desperate to take his chance and prove he can become an important member of the team.”
Strauss refused to speculate over Steve Harmison’s future amid reports he will retire from all international cricket at the end of the season.
Harmison has been included in England’s 13-man squad for Edgbaston and Strauss admits he is desperate to be involved for the first time in the series.
“I’ve had no indication from him that he’s think of retiring. It’s not important to us at the moment,” said Strauss.
“He’s dying to be involved in this series. If he gets his chance I’m sure he’ll be as committed as any player in our team.”
Meanwhile, the England and Wales Cricket Board today announced Brit Insurance will become the principle team sponsor of England cricket in a partnership that begins in January 2010.
The new deal is worth 10 per cent more than the contract agreed with previous sponsors Vodafone, who had been in place since 1997.d