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Flintoff flies back to action

Andrew Flintoff is due to fly back to Australia on Tuesday in a final attempt to prove himself fit for next month’s World Cup. England’s cricket authorities gave the Lancashire all-rounder the all-clear to rejoin the three-nation one-day tournament in Australia after his additional six weeks of rehabilitation.

Flintoff’s slow recovery from a double hernia operation in August attracted a withering crossfire of accusations after he was forced to drop out of the Ashes tour. Pain and stiffness in the affected area never completely disappeared and he played in Australia last month still unsure whether he would be fit enough for the World Cup.

Whether the operation was quite the success claimed or whether his rehabilitation programme was adequate remained unanswered questions. There were even oblique criticisms of Flintoff’s attitude from the England and Wales Cricket Board, despite evidence that he had reached an unprecedented level of fitness.

Probably all will be forgotten if the amiable Flintoff shakes off his unhappy experience with some forceful performances at Adelaide in England’s remaining two one-day matches against Sri Lanka, on Friday, and Australia, on Sunday. The three-match final starts next week.

Dr Peter Gregory, the ECB’s new chief medical officer, passed Flintoff fit after a rigorous check in Manchester. David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, said that Flintoff would need time to acclimatise. “Once that process is complete, we anticipate that he’ll be available for selection immediately,” he said.

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