England are refusing to put a date on Andrew Flintoff's international comeback. The team flew back last night having secured a 2-1 series win with victory in the final Test at Napier on Wednesday.
The coach Peter Moores is now looking ahead to the summer and the return series against New Zealand, which is followed by four Tests against South Africa. Their options for both series would be improved if they could call on Flintoff, who is now playing again after a fourth operation on his left ankle. But Moores said, "We're deliberately not putting a date on it. He's got to be fit and feeling good about himself first.
"Andrew's progress is very promising. He's bowling and the reports back are good. The key for him is not to push it until he feels happy and the medical staff are happy at where he's at. When he's in the right form we will decide how and where he will fit into the England team. It's nice he's progressing so well, because he's one of those players that can make a difference."
Flintoff, who featured in all but one of Lancashire's games on their pre-season tour in Dubai, has targeted that first Test against New Zealand on 15 May as a return date. But with England winning their last two Tests against the Kiwis and both Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison also competing for places in the side after being dropped, they can possibly afford to wait for Flintoff's return.
"The progression he's going through at the moment with Lancashire is for him to get stuck into the season," Moores said. "He'll get a chance to play as a batsman and a bowler and get battle-hardened again in county cricket after a reasonable time out."
Flintoff could play 23 days of senior cricket before the first Test with Lancashire's fixtures and the MCC match against Sussex in the season curtain-raiser.