England Test team 'best ever', insists Andrew Flintoff

October 5, 2017

Former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has hailed the current team as the "best ever", despite many criticising the make-up of the squad being sent to Australia for the Ashes. 

The star of the 2005 series, who is now a broadcaster, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It's not a case of England winning - it's by how many."

"It's the type of side you'd want to be involved in, from the coach and the captain down. I think England will have a good winter.

"We've got Jimmy Anderson, who is England's best ever bowler; Alastair Cook, England's best ever batter. And you throw in the likes of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, who is fantastic - it's exciting times."

These comments contrast with those of the BBC's cricket correspondent and Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew, who said the group of players heading Down Under was "one of the weakest squads I've seen". 

Critics have focused on the inability of various batsmen to come in and nail down the second opener's position, as well as the number three and number five spots, which have placed more strain on Cook and Root to make runs, as well as England's powerful middle and lower order. 

However, Flintoff's former colleague James Anderson noted that Australia are not without their own problems. The stars of their 5-0 whitewash of England on the last tour - fast bowler Mitchell Johnson and wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin - have both retired, and the threat of the home side unleashing a battery of four fearsome pace bowlers this winter has receded with news that James Pattinson will miss the series with a back injury.

Reflecting on this, Anderson - who recently took his 500th Test wicket - said: "I see a lot of similarities in the two teams. The transition that both have gone through in the recent past is very similar."  

"There are weaknesses in both teams and they're going to try and exploit ours. It's our job to try and exploit theirs and cement the cracks we might have. If we can do that, we'll be in a good position."

Pattinson's injury may help close a gap in pace between the sides, with England hoping their own speed merchant Mark Wood - who will be in Australia with the Lions - can prove his fitness and find a place in the senior squad. 

Last week, left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc, himself just back after a foot injury, said Australia's pacemen would be trying to emulate Johnson's feats of four years ago, remarking: "Everyone will like to bowl like Jono and terrorise the Poms like he did."

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the Edgbaston Test match next August when England play India will doubtless be watching the series closely. The Indians are currently well out in front at the top of the ICC Test match rankings, but they play only three home Tests this winter after 13 last year and face a tough upcoming trip to South Africa before next year's tour to England. This means that England could close the gap if they have a good winter, with short series away to New Zealand and at home to Pakistan between the Ashes and India's visit. 

England are presently third behind South Africa, despite beating the Proteas home and away in the last two years. Australia are fifth after recently drawing in Bangladesh.

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