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England boosted by Flintoff fitness status

Andrew Flintoff's recovery from a side strain has been faster than expected, increasing the likelihood that the England allrounder will start the first cricket test against the West Indies on Wednesday.

cricket Updated: Feb 03, 2009 23:40 IST

Andrew Flintoff's recovery from a side strain has been faster than expected, increasing the likelihood that the England allrounder will start the first cricket test against the West Indies on Wednesday.

"We are cautiously optimistic at the moment," England captain Andrew Strauss said yesterday. Flintoff "is ahead of where the medical staff wanted him, so that is really encouraging. But you can never be 100 percent sure on these things until the day before the game."

The 31-year-old Flintoff had an extended bowling practice yesterday and planned to go through another rigorous session on the eve of the series-opening match.

"It is a bowling injury which probably no one wants," Flintoff said. "The one main concern with it is that, although on the scan it is fine, there is a risk of aggravating it.

"I have got to prove tomorrow that there is no danger of doing that."

England, No. 5 in the International Cricket Council's test rankings, had a 3-0 win in the four-match series on its last tour to the Caribbean five years ago.

Flintoff, one of only two English survivors from that tour, was expecting a closer competition this time.

"One thing we know playing out here is that you have to play well to beat them," Flintoff said. "They're a decent team and if you are complacent in any way you can get found out with the likes of Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan in their team.

"We are confident of beating them but it is important for us to start well, and play the kind of cricket we know we can.