Fit Flintoff ready to hit finest form

Payback time has arrived for Andrew Flintoff. That was the message yesterday from the England hierarchy for the Lancashire all-rounder with the huge potential and the equally huge but injury-prone frame.

Payback time has arrived for Andrew Flintoff. That was the message yesterday from the England hierarchy for the Lancashire all-rounder with the huge potential and the equally huge but injury-prone frame.

The England captain Nasser Hussain was apparently impressed with Flintoff's level of fitness when the England team were put through their paces in preparation for Thursday's opening match in the ICC Knock-out Trophy against Bangladesh here, but believes the time has come for Flintoff to put himself in the black with his international employers.

The 6ft 4in 22-year-old made his Test debut in 1998 but has since been troubled by persistent back problems as well as stuttering form. The early signs on this tour are encouraging, although there were a few nervous twitches in the England camp as he ran into bowl in the nets at the weekend.

"He has done a good job with the way he has come here so fit, and I hope it continues," added Hussain. "He looks very trim and fit and raring to go."

The England management is hoping that players like Flintoff and Craig White will make a real impact with bat and ball during their winter campaign which takes them to Pakistan and Sri Lanka after the Kenya sojourn.

The captain is also pleased with the progress of Marcus Trescothick, who made his international debut just three months ago.

"Marcus is a very fine player," said Hussain. "Just as important, he is a very nice lad too to have around the dressing room. He is very level-headed, and we have made him part of the management structure.

"Playing in conditions like these will make him an even better player," he predicted.

Hussain is confident that his batsmen will be pleased with the playing surface prepared for the mini World Cup at the Gymkhana Club. "It looks a good wicket, and the Kenya authorities have obviously put in a lot of work," he said.

Even so, no-one in the England squad is getting carried away with the progress that may or may not be made in the competition. Some have them pencilled in for a semi-final against the world champions Australia next week. But if England slip up against Bangladesh they could be on the next flight out.

There is the small matter of a quarter-final against South Africa first should England win their qualifying tie, with Hussain adding: "We do not look beyond Bangladesh. We are certainly not looking as far forward as Australia."

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