Oval victory would beat 2005 highs, says Flintoff

England's key all-rounder pledges fitness for tomorrow's decisive final Ashes Test

Andrew Flintoff believes that an England victory in the final Test against Australia would surpass their Ashes-winning achievements of 2005. The Oval will mark his last Test for England and the all-rounder, who missed the three-day drubbing at Headingley, said yesterday that if they win it will be a "greater achievement" than the extraordinary events of four years ago when the Ashes were regained for the first time in 16 years.

Flintoff and his team-mates yesterday arrived at The Oval to prepare for tomorrow's decisive Test. With the series tied, England have to win to prevent Australia retaining the urn. "It's different from 2005 because we're at 1-1, but if we win this one it will be a far greater achievement," he said. "2005 was fantastic but the side had performed well over a period of time. We came here against Australia expecting to win. I'm not saying we're not doing that this time but the side has been through a lot over the past 12 months, it has changed a hell of a lot. We have got some young players who have never played in the Ashes, and from my point of view I've had to get over injuries to be here."

Flintoff will retire from Tests after the game, but is determined not to let that become a distraction from the job in hand. "The occasion is bigger than that. It's more the chance to win the Ashes again."

The 31-year-old also sought to dispel fears over whether he will last the five days. He was not chosen for the fourth Test because of fitness issues. "I'm confident I'll come through. I'm probably in a better state than I was going into the last Test [at Edgbaston]."

Australia, who have Brett Lee available for selection, crushed England in the last Test, having been outplayed in the two previous games, but Flintoff believes England will have no hangover from Headingley. "I think the week off has been important. You talk about momentum – it seems to be the buzzword of the minute – but this is a one-off Test match."

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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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