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England place faith in Flintoff
Allrounder gets an Ashes boost as Sidebottom and Harmison wait in the wings.
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2009 14:20 GMT

Flintoff announced his retirement after the series [GALLO/GETTY]
England talisman Andrew Flintoff has been chosen for the squad for the fourth Ashes Test in the hope that the allrounder will be fit to face Australia, despite ongoing injury concerns.

England picked 14 players in their squad for what could be the series decider starting on Friday, one more than for the drawn third Test, with pace bowler Steve Harmison or left-arm seamer Ryan Sidebottom looking likely to replace Flintoff at Headingley if he succumbs to his ankle injury.

Flintoff was arguably the key player in the second-Test win that put England 1-0 up in the series, but failed to take a wicket in the last match and laboured through 11 overs on the final day.

Selectors hopeful

With England hoping to regain the Ashes with victory in Leeds, national selector Geoff Miller said Flintoff's chances of playing were good.

"I would say they're always pretty good,'' Miller said.

"We know how determined he is to finish off his career. I'm sure he'll want to play.

"We know full well that if he's capable of doing the workload that the captain requires, he'll be in the team.''

Harmison has been on standby to fill in for Flintoff for the past two matches but is struggling with blisters on his foot. Sidebottom is effectively in the squad to cover for his fellow bowler.

Team director Andy Flower, however, is hopeful that Flintoff, who is retiring from Test cricket after the fifth and final Test, will be fit.

"We will have to play it by ear again,'' Flower said.

"We've done that throughout the series. Continued wear and tear mean he probably is less likely (than for the last Test) but he's a strong bloke. He's got a strong body and a strong mind.''

Ryan Sidebottom has been picked in the squad [GALLO/GETTY]
No spin

England also dropped spinner Monty Panesar after he was left out of the last two Tests and added Warwickshire batsman Jonathan Trott and Sidebottom.

"It's disappointing for Monty, but the records show over the years it's not a spinning track,'' Miller said.

The South African-born Trott, who averages 92.33 in 10 first-class county matches this season, is not in the squad as a replacement for the struggling Ravi Bopara but as an extra batsman.

"Ravi will bat at No.3 for us at Headingley, definitely,'' Flower said.

"Trott will be there if we want a sixth batter.''

While Australia could be bolstered by the return from injury of pace bowler Brett Lee and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, Miller said the bigger than usual squad will give Flower and captain Andrew Strauss greater flexibility when they come to name the team after assessing the state of the pitch.

"We've got the option for an extra batter if necessary,'' Miller said.

"Jon's been part of the performance squad for a year or more now. He's done really well over the last year or so with the bat.

"The options are there for the captain and coach for what they want to go with on the morning of the game.''

Source:
Agencies
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