England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff will make his second appearance of the season for Lancashire today fully confident in his fitness but cautiously insisting that it is too early to believe he can rest easy over his troubled left ankle.
Flintoff said he felt "absolutely fine" after bowling 28 overs in the Championship match with Surrey here – abandoned as a draw after no play was possible yesterday – and remains on course for the First Test against New Zealand on 15 May.
But, six months on from undergoing a fourth operation on the same ankle, he feels he will not be able to declare himself "cured" until he has bowled for a year without breaking down.
"Hopefully, coming out of the operation, it is cured clinically," he said. "But from a workload point of view, maybe if I can bowl for 10 to 12 months without a problem, and break the cycle of bowling 150 or 200 overs and then breaking down, I'll be happy. I know I will have tokeep working on my left leg, in particular my calf. I'll probably be on a rehab programme for the rest of my career.
"But so far it feels great. It is a long time since the operation, I've had a good pre-season and turned up to play here with no concern about my fitness. It was tough on that pitch against Mark Ramprakash and Mark Butcher but the ball came out nicely, I beat the bat a few times and I don't think I was far off full pace.
"I was probably more anxious about batting, but I hit a fewout of the middle and it was disappointing to get to 20-odd and then get a good ball.
"I've said before I would love to be involved at Lord's on 15 May but I'm aware I have to perform. I need to score some runs as well."
Flintoff will play in the Friends Provident Trophy match against Derbyshire at Old Trafford today. England have left it to the county to decide on his workload, but with his rehabilitation being supervised by Dave Roberts, who serves as a consultant to England as well as the county's medical services director, there is unlikely to be any conflict of interest.