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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK
Flintoff pick surprises Ponting
Andrew Flintoff and Ricky Ponting
Ponting and Flintoff during the 2005 Ashes in England

Australia captain Ricky Ponting said he was surprised with England's decision to pick Andrew Flintoff as skipper for the defence of their Ashes crown.

Ponting thought they would have kept faith with opener Andrew Strauss, who was in charge for the recent 3-0 Test series victory over Pakistan.

"I did think Strauss would get the nod. We will have to wait and see what sort of job Flintoff does," said Ponting.

Australia are aiming to regain the Ashes after losing 2-1 in England.

Flintoff missed most of the summer because he needed to undergo surgery on his ankle and has not bowled since then.

But he is confident of being fully fit for the first Test in Brisbane on 23 November.

They remind me a bit of Laurel and Hardy - in that they are different characters who complement each other nicely

Warne on Flintoff and Strauss

Ponting also raised eyebrows at the inclusion in the England squad of spinner Ashley Giles and fast bowler James Anderson, both of whom have yet to recover their full fitness.

"I believe Giles has been picked subject to fitness," said Ponting.

"Anderson has been picked as well I think after not playing cricket for quite a while, so they've got a couple of guys they will be sweating on over the next couple of weeks."

Australia spinner Shane Warne backed the decision to choose Flintoff but said Strauss would also be an important sounding board for the all-rounder.

Warne revealed in his Times column the Ashes squad was announced live on Australian television, such was the interest.

He said: "Freddie will lead by example and somebody of that ability is bound to have the respect of the team.

"Although Andrew Strauss was overlooked, I think he will be more and more important to Fred in the months ahead.

"The Flintoff/Strauss combination could be pretty effective.

"They remind me a bit of Laurel and Hardy - in that they are different characters who complement each other nicely."

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