Andrew Flintoff has eased concerns about his prospects of completing the Ashes series after delivering a match-winning display to complete England's first win at Lord's for 75 years.
The 31-year-old Lancashire all-rounder announced his intention to retire at the end of this series before the start of the second Test following persistent right knee problems, only for speculation to intensify that he may be playing his last Test after suffering renewed discomfort.
But after delivering a ferocious, unbroken 10-over spell this morning to finish with five for 92 and inspire England's 115-run victory, Flintoff insisted he was still determined to finish this summer on a high by helping England regain the Ashes.
"You hear what's been said and it's never been my intention to bow out at Lord's," stressed Flintoff. "I want to be in an Ashes-winning team come the last Test match at the Oval. To be on that podium at the last Test will be the perfect way for me to go."
Flintoff's stunning performance ensured Australia, chasing a world-record winning total of 522, were dismissed for 406 after resuming the final morning on 313 for five and was only the third five-wicket haul of his 76-Test England career.
It was his first five-for since claiming five for 78 against Australia at the Oval four years ago, which secured England's historic series win, and despite feeling discomfort during the last five days he is determined to finish the series.
"I've three Tests to go and I will do anything to get out onto that field and finish this series," he said. "The encouraging thing from my point of view is that I've bowled all my overs.
"I may have had a bit of discomfort, but I've played most of my career in discomfort so that's nothing new. I know where I am with it.
"There were a couple of twinges in the knee, however it's encouraging that I can run in and bowl the amount of overs I have done today so that bodes well for three more Test matches - I want to play a major part in that, I want to play a major part in the team's success."
Flintoff will now return to Manchester and work with long-term confidant and physio Dave Roberts on more rehabilitation before reporting for duty with England for the third Test at Edgbaston next week.
Captain Andrew Strauss will certainly be hoping there is no reaction to Flintoff's epic display as England attempt to build on their first early lead in an Ashes series since 1997.
"I know that if you had to list the top three bowlers in world cricket that batsmen don't want to face, Fred's going to be on that list and probably at the top of it," enthused Strauss.
"No one enjoys facing him and sometimes he doesn't get his just rewards for the hostility he bowls with. Sometimes he doesn't get those five-fors, but no one enjoys those spells he bowls.
"It was good to see him get what he deserved this game because that kind of consistent hostility is unpleasant. Quite frankly it's unpleasant in the nets and it's not much fun in the middle, either.
"After he took that first wicket this morning he said 'by the way, I ought to let you know I'll keep bowling until all the wickets are gone' - I thought that sounds like a good plan to me and so it proved."
Flintoff, who was watched by his wife Rachael at Lord's today, plans to head back North in the next few days before preparing for his next showdown with Australia at Edgbaston having added his name to the Lord's honours' board.
"It is nice to get five and get up on that board but to go 1-0 up in an Ashes series is the big one," he added. "We'll enjoy this moment, I know I will, but there are still three Tests to go.
"We've done all right and we've won one Test match but we've got to keep improving and getting better. This has been a fantastic team performance but we have to get better at Edgbaston next week."Reuse content