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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 10:28 GMT
England optimistic over Flintoff
Andrew Flintoff
Flintoff bowled more than he should have done in Cape Town
England are hopeful that all-rounder Andrew Flintoff will be fit for the fourth Test against South Africa, which starts in Johannesburg on 13 January.

Flintoff suffered a side injury in Cape Town and there were initial fears that he might have to return home.

But hospital tests showed the injury was not as serious as feared, although there is a slight tear in an abdominal muscle on his left side.

"There is a minor tear under the 12th rib," said media manager David Clarke.

"He is expected to respond to localised treatment and is expected to be fit to bowl in the fourth test next week."

Losing Flintoff for even one game would be a massive blow to England's chances of winning the series.

He enjoyed a spectacularly successful year in 2004, contributing 898 runs at an average of 52 and 43 wickets as England won 11 Tests out of 13, the other two ending in draws.

Flintoff returned home early from England's 1999-2000 tour to South Africa after breaking a bone in his foot, and has also suffered back and groin problems during his Test career.

These kind of injuries can come from anything
Duncan Fletcher

Captain Michael Vaughan defended the amount of bowling Flintoff had done so far in the series.

He sent down 49 overs during the match in Cape Town, having delivered 37 in the previous Test at Durban.

"In a situation where you're trying to keep the runs down and making sure they don't get off to a flyer and declare as early as they can, you have to bowl your best bowlers and Freddie is that bowler at the minute.

"I know he's our all-rounder and sometimes we have to look after him, but there have been no signs of any niggles over the last three weeks.

"He's been our best bowler and you have to bowl your best bowlers at the crucial periods," said Vaughan.

Batsman Mark Butcher, meanwhile, is wearing a special brace to aid his recovery from a wrist injury.

He hopes to resume full practice early next week.

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