Ashes banter nothing new says Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff is confident relations between England and Australia have not been damaged by the tough battle to secure a result in the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

The Lancashire all-rounder, who hit 74 off 79 balls yesterday, was embroiled in several exchanges of words with Mitchell Johnson while Stuart Broad and James Anderson also became involved during a tense fourth day.

But as Australia begin today's final day trailing by 25 runs on 88 for two, Flintoff insists the banter is part of the competitive nature of Ashes cricket and neither side has over-stepped the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

"It's competitive out there in the middle," said 31-year-old Flintoff.

"It means a lot to each side and the game has been played tough, but with a good spirit.

"It was very competitive but nothing to worry about.

"I'm sure when people see it they wonder what's going on, but all the way through the Test series it's been played in a good spirit - we're trying to get wickets and the lads are going hard and the Australians play it tough as well."

Flintoff's innings, his highest Test score on English soil since scoring his last century against Australia at Trent Bridge four years ago, was the catalyst for a major England fightback after the team led by Andrew Strauss slipped to 168 for five in reply to Australia's 263.

Today he will be required to run in and bowl more overs as England press for the victory which would seal a 2-0 series lead despite having little time to recover before Friday's fourth Test at Headingley.

"I'll bowl my overs, I'll bowl whatever Straussy asks me to, and in between Tests I'll rest up, do all my icing and do everything possible," he said.

"I want to play in every Test in the series and it would have to be something very serious for me not to. I've scored a few runs today and bowled a few overs and I will bowl a few more on the final day and then rest up."

Unable to dismiss England quickly enough, Australia's chances of winning now look slim and face the prospect of attempting to bat out the final day to prevent a second successive defeat.

"We're always trying to win but the rain has taken too much out of the game for us," explained swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, who finished with four for 109 when England were finally dismissed for 376.

"If you can't win, the next best thing is a draw. Our plan was to try to knock them over early and get a lead and it didn't quite happen the way we wanted, so now we are back to Plan B and will try to bat the day out."

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