BIRMINGHAM, August 3 – Andrew Flintoff said England had it in them to defy the bad weather that has played havoc with the third Test and beat Australia on Monday's final day here at Edgbaston.And he promised England fans worried about the all-rounder’s knee injury he would be fit to play in the fourth Test at Headingley even though there are just three days between the end of this match and Friday’s start in Leeds.
Asked what it would take to get to him to Leeds, Flintoff jokingly told reporters: "I’ll get there in my car."
Flintoff struck 74 here on Sunday to help propel England, already 1-0 up in the five-match series, into a first innings lead of 113 and then saw paceman Graham Onions dismiss Simon Katich before off-spinner Graeme Swann captured the key wicket of Australia captain Ricky Ponting, out for a mere five.
Australia will resume Monday on 88 for two, still needing 25 more runs to make England bat again and with their hopes of winning this match all but extinguished by a Flintoff-inspired revival which helped England recover from 168 for five.
England took seven wickets for 77 runs on Friday morning as Australia collapsed in the face of fine bowling from Onions and James Anderson, who exploited the overcast conditions.
Flintoff, whose two fifties and aggressive pace bowling played a key role in England’s thrilling two-run Ashes victory at Edgbaston four years ago, was not too disappointed to have missed out on a hundred after he gloved off-spinner Nathan Hauritz to Michael Clarke at slip.
His rapid partnerships of 89 and 52 with Matthew Prior (41) and Stuart Broad (55) helped England take the game away from Australia after Saturday’s third day was washed out without a ball being bowled.
"It would have been nice to get one (a hundred)," Flintoff told reporters. "But we are in a decent postion.
"The first session tomorrow (Monday) is massive for both sides. If we can start as we did the other day we can win the Test match but if they get through to lunch one down, they will think they are doing all right."
Flintoff’s unbroken spell on the final day at Lord’s helped England achieve a 115-run second Test win that put them 1-0 up in the series.
"The last day at Lord’s we needed five wickets. Here there are still some fine players to come in. Both sides’ patience will be tested, it will be attritional cricket," Flintoff predicted.
England enjoyed the boost of seeing Swann turn one out of the rough created by Australia left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson to bowl Ponting
"When you get Ricky out, it always gives you a lift," said Flintoff. "He is probably the best player in the world."
Australia swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus produced another impresive display of endurance and skill, reeling off 14 consecutive overs, to lead the attack with four for 109 in 30 overs.
But despite his efforts Hilfenhaus admitted the best Australia could now hope for was a draw.
"Obviously this morning our plan was to knock them over early and now it’s unfortunately back to Plan B and hopefully we can bat the day out."