England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff was struggling in the Edgbaston Test and his fitness is "going downhill pretty quickly", feels Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
Struggling with a lingering knee injury, Flintoff, who would be retiring from Test cricket after the Ashes series, was not as lethal with the ball in the drawn Test in Edgbaston as he was in the previous match at the Lord's.
Although the 31-year-old Lancashire top scored with the bat, hitting 74, he couldn't take a single wicket in his 11 overs yesterday.
"He bowled so well at Lord's, and what we have seen Flintoff give them with the bat as well was pretty impressive, so having Pietersen and him out of the same side would leave two pretty big gaps in their make-up," Ponting told a post-match news conference.
"Visibly you could see he went downhill pretty quickly through the course of this game, so his injury is probably starting to take a bit more effect than what we actually realised.
"But we will prepare as if he is going to play and see what happens on the morning of the game," he added.
However, England skipper Andrew Strauss backed Flintoff and said that it was a tactical decision considering the condition of the pitch and there was no issue with the beefy player's fitness.
"I suppose at the back of my mind I'm conscious that when the conditions aren't really helping him, there's no point in tearing him to death," Strauss said.
"That's the reason he didn't bowl in the final session and we're still very optimistic he'll be okay for Headingley.
"There is obviously some soreness there, but I don't think there's anything that has deteriorated massively over the course of the game," he added.
Meanwhile, Ponting said he was hopeful injured spearhead Brett Lee will hit his full pace and would be "100 per cent" fit within the next couple of days to reclaim his place in the fourth Test.
Recuperating from a rib injury, Lee faces a race against time to be fit for Friday's fourth Test at Headingley.
"The way things are coming along I'd expect him to be able to bowl 100 per cent over the next couple of days," Ponting said.
"He's done a lot of bowling this week, he's been ultra keen.
"Every opportunity we've had, a rain break or when he's not 12th man, he's been in the indoor nets or out in the middle for a bowl.
"That's a really good sign for us. He's building up his pace over the last couple of days, but we're going to need to see him go pretty hard over the next couple of days to make himself a good chance of selection."