Moores praises Freddie factor in England revival

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The Independent Online

Kevin Pietersen is rightly being credited with the remarkable upturn in England's cricketing fortunes. Since replacing Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood, and unifying the Test and one-day captaincies, Pietersen's England have convincingly won five consecutive matches against a good, strong South African side. It is a transformation nobody would have predicted.

Pietersen's decisive and positive approach has played a major role in England's success, but the input of Andrew Flintoff should not be underestimated. In fact, it could be argued that "Big Fred's" return to fitness and top form has been as important as the appointment of Pietersen.

Flintoff's input during The Oval Test – 20 runs and two wickets – was minimal but his contribution since has been immense. In five one-dayers against Scotland and South Africa he has taken 13 wickets at an average of 11.54, conceding just 3.88 runs per over, and been dismissed once while scoring 187 runs. These runs have been accumulated at a strike rate of 118 runs per 100 balls faced.

The displays have underlined his huge value to the team, worth that has not been lost on Peter Moores, the England coach. Moores has been impressed not only with Flintoff's form on the field, but with the way he is handling situations and conducting himself in the dressing room.

"He is a more mature player and sides around the world need those kind of players, players who have been around the block and who can keep things calm when you need to," said Moores. "He has taken everything he's learnt about international cricket and he has taken everything he has learnt about life and come back ready to make a difference. I think with him in that senior role it is fantastic for some of the younger players to have a role model like him.

"Fred brings presence as a man. You need players with presence who believe totally in themselves and know they are going to win a game. On the field you see his passion and enthusiasm to want to play, but also that is linked to a calmness about him, and that mixture is what you need to win things.

"A lot of sport at this level is about not making it a drama, taking things on the chin, working with it and moving forward. I think Fred is doing that, he knows he has missed a lot of cricket and is excited about playing, but is working hard. He is loving his cricket and he is supporting Kevin tremendously, which he needs.

"In my time now, it has been great to watch him operate and you can see him loving it. When you're out for such a long time it makes you realise that what you had is something special, and you want it back, because it is such a buzz playing for your country.

"Fred is a doer, he bats bowls and fields, and he has got some really good knowledge in there from all the cricket he has played and he wants to pass that on to young players."

Flintoff's importance to the side is highlighted by Moores' decision to give him an extended rest after tomorrow's final international match of the summer in Cardiff. Even though he has not played as much cricket as many this season Flintoff is one of a number of centrally contracted players who have been given time off before England's next match, the $20m (£10m) Twenty20 match against Sir Allen Stanford's All-Star XI on 1 November.

"It has been a gruelling summer and it's important for those players involved in the Test and one-day squads to be rested ahead of what promises to be a hectic winter," Moores said. "It is important the players use that interval to refresh themselves mentally and physically ahead of a schedule that has little respite over the next 12 months."

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