Flintoff: 'It's time to stop playing Test cricket'

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Andrew Flintoff today announced he will retire from Test cricket at the end of this summer's Ashes series.

The 31-year-old has accepted defeat in his long-running battle against injuries and told Press Association Sport: "My body has told me it's time to stop."

The Lancashire all-rounder, man-of-the-series during England's stunning 2005 Ashes success, made his announcement today after struggling to overcome a succession of injuries during the last four years.

He has had four ankle operations and is battling to be fit for tomorrow's second Test at Lord's but will first hold a press conference there at 12.30pm today.

In the first Test in Cardiff, Flintoff suffered a recurrence of a right knee injury, which follows an operation earlier this year to cure a degenerative problem in the joint which flared up during his stint playing in the Indian Premier League.

That latest injury setback persuaded Flintoff that after 75 Tests for England, during which time he claimed 212 wickets and scored 3,658 runs including five centuries, the time was right to end his Test career and concentrate on playing international cricket at one-day and Twenty20 level.

"My body has told me it's time to stop," he told Press Association Sport. "I've been through four ankle operations, I had knee surgery just a couple of months ago and had three jabs in my knee on Monday just to get me right for this Test so I took that as my body telling me that I can't cope with the rigours of Test cricket.

"Since 2005 I've done two years when I've done nothing but rehab from one injury or another. Two of the last four years I've spent just in rehabilitation and I just can't keep doing it for myself, my own sanity, my family and also for the team -because they need to move on as well.

"It's been something I've been thinking about for a while and I think this last problem I've had with my knee has confirmed to me that the time is now right.

"For the next four Test matches I'll do everything I need to do to get on a cricket field and I'm desperate to make my mark.

"I want to finish playing for England on a high and if you look at the fixtures going forward, the way my body is suggests I won't be able to get through that."

Flintoff's Test career began aged 20 back in 1998 when he made his debut against South Africa at Trent Bridge and included player of the series awards at home to South Africa (2003), West Indies (2004) and Australia (2005).

He was given the captaincy in 2006 following a knee injury to Michael Vaughan and led England to an impressive drawn series in India that year and at home to Sri Lanka, although he was less successful when he led England to a 5-0 series whitewash in Australia in 2006-7.

His time with England has also been marred by several brushes with team management, including the infamous pedalo incident during the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean when he was stripped of the vice-captaincy. Only this month he was disciplined for missing a team bus during a trip to Belgium to visit First World War sites.

Those incidents did not seem to affect his popularity with the crowds, however, and Flintoff admitted: "I love playing Test cricket, but the decision has been made for me - I don't think I've been left with any other choices.

"I've not been playing Test cricket very often over the last few years so it's bitterly disappointing but it's something I've not been doing very often anyway.

"It's also important for the team that I make this announcement because they need to move on. They can't keep waiting for me to get fit or for me to play a game here and there - they need to give someone else a chance to make their way in the game.

"I would have liked to have stamped my mark more, but I had three years from 2003 to 2005 when I had everything going my own way. I got a few man-of-the-series awards on the bounce and I tried wholeheartedly and gave my best every time I went out there.

"Since 2005 I have just been plagued with injury so I've got the opportunity now to finish on a high by helping England to win the Ashes and it will give me great pleasure if I can play my last Test at the Oval and we can win the Ashes - it doesn't get any bigger than that."

Flintoff's contract with Lancashire ends next year and he plans talks with captain Glen Chapple, chief executive Jim Cumbes and coach Peter Moores to determine his future with the club he has played for since being a schoolboy.

"I've not spoken to Lancashire about that yet and I still have a year of my contract left with them and I will have to discuss with them what the best way forward is," he confirmed.

"I've given up Test cricket because my body can't cope so playing four-day cricket could also be a problem, particularly as the fixtures come thick and fast."

But despite the obvious temptation to play one last time in a Test match at Lord's, Flintoff insists he will only play this week if his body is fit enough to withstand the rigours of playing against Australia.

"I've chatted to Andrew Strauss and he is very supportive but I will make my decision on whether I will be fit enough to play in the Test match and not because I want to play one last Test for England at Lord's," he added.

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