England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has been sleeping with a machine to keep alive his Ashes dream.
Flintoff, aged 31, has been wearing a Game Ready wrap around his injured right knee in a bid to ease the discomfort he experienced before, during and after the second npower Test match win over Australia at Lord’s.
The special contraption was designed using NASA spacesuit technology and simultaneously supplies intermittent compression and ice treatment.
It works on the inflamed area, half an hour on, half an hour off, while individuals are in bed and is regularly used by Premier League footballers who have experienced joint injuries.
Flintoff, whose fifth-morning display with the ball sealed a 115-run victory and the man-of-the-match award at Lord’s, yesterday bowled at close to full capacity for about ten minutes in the middle at Edgbaston.
That was an encouraging sign for England less than 48 hours before the third match of the series begins with England, 1-0 up, attempting to regain the Ashes.
Having lost Kevin Pietersen, one of their big-match stars, England will be keen for Flintoff to fulfil his ambition to get through the campaign in spite of what his body says.
Andrew Strauss’ men held a lengthy chat close to the pitch before yesterday’s practice session.
Warwickshire batsman Ian Bell has been given the task of deputising for main man Pietersen at number four, one which brings extra pressure. “I guess it does so in certain ways,” Bell said. “But I think when you go into games like this it’s a big occasion. The whole batting unit has to go out and perform. We can’t rely on one guy to go out and score the whole runs for the team.
“To me it’s a matter of contributing to that batting unit and knowing what I can do and offer to the team and play in a style where I know I play at my best.
“Of course with someone like Kev, a world-class player, you’re going to miss that. But we all have our own tempo. Kev has his methods, I have my methods and strengths. There’s no point me trying to go out and play like Kev. I have to play to my strengths and think about how I want to go out there and score my runs and contribute to getting a big first-innings score.”
Bell, 27, has shunted up and down the batting order in a five-year Test career.
When former captain Michael Vaughan stepped down from the captaincy a year ago, following defeat to South Africa, Bell jumped at the chance to make the number three spot his own, with Australia captain Ricky Ponting as his template for success.
But four poor matches at first-wicket down meant being axed following humiliating defeat to West Indies in Jamaica in February.
His immediate reaction was to begin a regime of 6am fitness drills with security officer Reg Dickason, on the beaches of the Caribbean, which he said “left me on my knees”.
That work meant he was up and running with Warwickshire as soon as he returned home and he stacked up 647 runs in County Championship action.
It was during an early match, however, that his situation struck home. England were playing West Indies at Lord’s while Bell was playing county cricket. “For me, seeing it here on the big screen and being at Edgbaston, really hit home what it means to be involved in a Test match for your country,” Bell recalled. “For that first ten minutes I couldn’t think of anything else but that. I had to quickly get that out of my mind because I was playing a game here. That was one moment I realised how much it hurt.
“When you’ve been a regular and it suddenly gets taken away from you – how much that really means to you – so you do a lot of thinking inside about what you want to do when you get that next opportunity.”
Although he was an Ashes winner in 2005, there is also a personal point to prove with his average against Australia only 25. “I want to become one of the best players in England and I want to keep improving,” Bell said. “I’ve played well against other teams and now I have to play well against Australia.”
Bell, who turned his right ankle during a football warm-up yesterday, did cause mild concern when he appeared back on the main ground shortly before 4.30pm – fully kitted in batting gear following a net session – to test how it responded to running.