Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

Freddie looks to 2009

England captain Andrew Flintoff told his players Friday to use the humiliation of losing the Ashes in the first series whitewash for 86 years as motivation for their next series with Australia in 2009.

The all-rounder admitted he was hurting after leading England to a 5-0 drubbing but pointed to the way Australia came back after their shock Ashes loss in 2005 culminated in wild English celebrations at The Oval in London.

"I've heard the Australians speak about watching on at The Oval, they used that as a spur for this series we've just played in," Flintoff said.

"For 2009, I'm sure that's something the lads will remember, it gives us the spur on for that series.

"You look at our room and, conceivably, every one who's played in this Test match could play in 2009."

Flintoff was at a loss to explain England's failure in Australia, where the tourists are yet to win a match since arriving in early November.

He said the world's number two ranked Test side suffered a collective loss of form just when it needed to lift against the relentless Australians.

"It's not through lack of practice or lack of wanting to do it," he said.

"We've probably been fortunate for a while that as a group we've all performed well together and it's inevitable players will lose form from time to time -- there's been quite a few of us who've done it at the same time.

"When you come on a tour like this, that just can't happen, you've got to be on the top of your game."

The tour started badly for England when their most experienced batsman Marcus Trescothick returned home suffering a stress-related illness before the first Brisbane Test.

Andrew Strauss failed to fill the void, averaging just 24.7 runs for the series and strike bowler Steve Harmison was wayward from his opening delivery at Brisbane's Gabba, which flew to a startled Flintoff at second slip.

England contrived to concede the next Test in Adelaide from a seemingly unloseable position on the final day and Australia capitalised on their opponent's morale-sapping defeat to dominate the rest of the series.

England now go into a triangular one-day series involving Australia and New Zealand with question marks over Flintoff's captaincy and Duncan Fletcher's future as coach.

The pair was criticised as overly defensive for selecting spinner Ashley Giles over Monty Panesar and wicketkeeper Geraint Jones instead of Chris Read in the early Tests, with both replacements performing well when finally given their chance.

But Flintoff argued Australia had taken Test cricket to a new level in demolishing an England side that arrived Down Under "quietly confident" it could retain the Ashes.

"We knew it was young and slightly inexperienced but that was one of the exciting things about it," he said.

"Going out for that first Test match at the Gabba, we thought we could do something special out here, but we came up against a side who have been magnificent for five Tests."

Flintoff said there would be an extensive review after the side returns to England in an attempt to draw positives from what has been a nightmare tour.

"I know we've been beaten 5-0, but it can't be a pointless exercise," he said. "I think it's a young side and as long as we've learned something from this going forward.

"Some of the lads have scored runs and had success against them, showing that they can compete against the best in the world."

Flintoff said he would speak with England chairman of selectors David Graveney over the next few days about whether he would remain captain for the one dayers, with Michael Vaughan expected to resume the skipper's role after an injury-enforced absence.

Flintoff said his immediate priority was relaxing after a gruelling Test series.

"I'm going to have a day off, it's been intense stuff for six weeks, I'm going to have a day off. I'm not going to worry about bowling plans for field positions or scoring runs, I'm just going to relax," he said.