Flintoff on the mend in race to face Australia

Andrew Flintoff, the England all-rounder, is reckoned to be three months ahead of schedule in his recovery from ankle surgery and could be back in action next month. He could play as a batsman in Lancashire's first Championship game of the season, against Somerset at Old Trafford, starting on 13 April.

Andrew Flintoff, the England all-rounder, is reckoned to be three months ahead of schedule in his recovery from ankle surgery and could be back in action next month. He could play as a batsman in Lancashire's first Championship game of the season, against Somerset at Old Trafford, starting on 13 April.

The England chief medical officer, Dr Peter Gregory, said: "We are in touch with Freddie two or three times a week and his recovery is going well. The operation was a success and, as planned, we are looking for him to play before facing Australia."

Flintoff began outdoor training in Bolton last week and then joined a pre-season tour to the Algarve. He is still expected to miss the two early summer Tests with Bangladesh, staying instead with his county. It is not clear when he will resume bowling in a match.

The encouraging progress Flintoff has made since his ankle operation in February makes it likely he will be able to bowl at Lord's in the opening Ashes Test on 21 July. He put back his wedding until this month to have the surgery in a bid to be fit for the Ashes.

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