Clarke: Fred will end a loser
Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke is determined to ensure that Andrew Flintoff bows out of Test cricket as an Ashes loser.
By Joe Drabble
Last Updated: 30/07/09 11:49am
Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke has spoken of his determination to ensure that England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff bows out of Test cricket as an Ashes loser.
Flintoff announced his retirement from the five-day arena after the first Test in Cardiff, and promptly bowled England into a 1-0 lead with an inspirational five-wicket haul in the second Test at Lord's.
The 31-year-old has been sleeping with a special compression machine on his troublesome knee in an attempt to be fit for Thursday's third Test at Edgbaston, the scene of England's historic two-run win over the Aussies in 2005.
However Clarke, whose sublime second-innings century came in vain at Lord's, is confident the tourists can reverse the deficit and scupper Flintoff's dreams of a victorious farewell.
"I hope he can finish the series - he certainly deserves that," said Clarke.
"Unfortunately I think he is going to be finished as a loser when we win the series, but like I say he is a fantastic player and I hope that he pulls up fit and is ready to go.
"He's an amazing player, he has been for a long time. I'm not that disappointed that I won't have to face him again after this series in Test cricket - he's a wonderful bowler and it's always a contest but I hope Andrew is fit and ready to go.
"He is always up for the big contest, he seems to perform under pressure and no doubt he will be ready come Thursday to give us a bit more stick."
Both sides have had their fair share of selection issues ahead of the Birmingham showdown, with England bringing Ian Bell into the middle-order in place of the injured Kevin Pietersen (Achilles).
Australia still have pace bowler Brett Lee (side strain) unavailable and have been dealt a further setback with the lack of form shown by strike bowler Mitchell Johnson.
The left-arm seamer averages 41.37 with the ball so far in the series and his match-figures of 1-107 in the recent tour match against Northamptonshire caused further concern in the Aussie camp.
And Clarke, who has scored 220 runs in the opening two Tests and sat out the warm-up clash, admits Australia must be at their best to beat England at Edgbaston.
He said: "Things could be better - we could be 1-0 up. So there are still things we need to improve with both bat and ball.
"The practice game has been a really good lead-up for the guys that played in that match - they got a lot out of that.
"We need to be playing our best cricket to beat England in these conditions, we know that and I think in our last Test we were just off that."
Warwickshire batsman Bell will bat at number four against the Aussies on Thursday in what will be his third Ashes series.
The 27-year-old has not played a Test for England since February's innings defeat to West Indies in Jamaica, however Clarke insists the Aussie attack will not be taking his wicket lightly.
"I think Ian is a wonderful player, he has been successful around the world so I think we have to study him and have a look at where he scores his runs as we do with every batsman," he added.
"I think that will be part of preparation this afternoon and tomorrow.
"We have seen a lot of Ian. Like I said, we know he is a good player and we are going to have to bowl well to him."