Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Aussies want Freddie to be ready

Marcus North wants Andrew Flintoff to be fit for the last two Ashes Tests so Australia can say they beat an England side at full strength.

North played a key role in preventing the hosts taking a 2-0 series lead with a determined 96 to force a draw in the third Test at Edgbaston.

England all-rounder Flintoff was visibly struggling with his troublesome right knee on the final day and his participation in the rest of the series is again under the spotlight.

North for one hopes Flintoff does play.

He said: "We want to play the best side we can play against when we play any other country.

"We have already seen the impact that Andrew Flintoff has had on this series. He had a quiet game with the ball but he had that explosive innings with the bat.

"We want to walk away, taking the Ashes back home, beating a full-strength England side."

Andrew Strauss' side still only hold a 1-0 lead going into the final two matches at Headingley in three days' time and then at The Oval, and North is full of confidence that the tourists can now turn the series around.

"We know if we play our best cricket, we walk away winning Test matches against any opponent," he added.

"We can take a lot of character and momentum and fight out of the Edgbaston match and hopefully that can set us up for the remaining two Tests.

"We all knew yesterday was going to be a tough day of Test cricket, one where the Australian team had to show some character and fight - and we did that.

"We saw England do that in the first Test at Cardiff. We went out then expecting to win and England showed character and fight on that day and got a draw.

"I firmly believe England went out yesterday believing they were going to win and we showed that fight and character and ground the game out.

"We lost nearly two days' play through rain and at the end we were four wickets down with a 200-odd run lead - and building on that. We played some very good cricket in this last Test."

Both sides have not been afraid to become involved in verbal exchanges and one report today claimed that Australian skipper Ricky Ponting kicked a dressing room door after being dismissed in the second innings.

But North believes it all serves to highlight what is at stake for both sides.

He said: "The banter on the pitch is great. Both teams are playing extremely hard Test cricket. We are playing for the urn. It is great to have a bit of banter.

"It gets both teams up. It is entertaining for the crowd and that is what Test cricket is about. It is about playing it hard and if you can get a little edge over your opposition with a bit of banter, that's great.

"Equally, whenever any of us as batsmen get out, we don't like getting out. It just shows how important it is to all of us.

"When we go and have an innings in Test cricket, we want to do well. You have to be disappointed when you get out."

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