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Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 19:59 UK

Do not rush Flintoff, says Botham

Andrew Flintoff
Flintoff has not played Test cricket since January 2007

England legend Sir Ian Botham says Andrew Flintoff should not be rushed back into the national side.

The squad for next Thursday's first Test against New Zealand is named on Sunday and the 30-year-old all-rounder has been tipped to return to the fold.

Flintoff has bowled well after a fourth ankle operation last October but Botham has warned against a speedy comeback.

"I would just hold Fred back a bit. I'd like him to play a bit more county cricket," he told BBC Sport.

"I'd like him to have plenty of overs under his belt and plenty of runs as a batsman come the South Africans (later in the summer), because I think that will be a much sterner test.

"I'd just like him to be given that time to get his confidence back; full confidence in his body and more importantly in that ankle.

"England do need him but they need a fit Fred.

"But he also knows this is really make-or-break time because he's 30 years old and he's had four operations on it, so it's got to be right."

Flintoff has not played a Test match since the Ashes whitewash in Australia in January 2007.

He has struggled with the bat on his return to action this season - a pair in his latest game for Lancashire against Durham means he has managed only 68 runs in seven competitive innings.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have denied reports former England opener Geoffrey Boycott will be brought into the senior coaching set-up to help Flintoff with his batting.

Flintoff is a known admirer of the Yorkshire legend and has called on Boycott's expertise in the past.

He is the type of batsman where it can just click with one shot

England team-mate Paul Collingwood on Flintoff
But the ECB said any extension of that relationship would be in an unofficial capacity, and that informal talks with Boycott, 67, had actually been held with a view to him helping younger age groups.

"We use Nasser Hussain to talk to age-group teams and that is what we envisage other former players doing," said a spokesman.

While Flintoff is struggling with the bat, England team-mate Paul Collingwood believes the Lancastrian, who dismissed him on Thursday in the current County Championship match with Durham, is "back to his best" with the ball.

"He has run in really hard this week and it has been impressive stuff," Collingwood told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He has bowled around 90mph, got it to shape away a touch and, as Fred always does, bowled in areas that are very difficult to defend against, let alone score off.

"I am not a selector but from what I have seen this week he is pretty much back to his best with the ball. Whether he has enough overs under his belt I don't know, you'd have to ask Fred.

"We have to be very careful because he has had a few operations on his ankle and we don't want to rush him back too soon.

"But the last few days has been hairy stuff and he has produced some exceptional bowling.

"I am sure he is a bit concerned about his batting and would love to have scored a lot more runs.

"But he is the type of batsman where it can just click with one shot. He is destructive on his day and it could be one ball that comes out the middle of the bat, and it just clicks again."

• Sir Ian Botham has announced plans for a 12th charity walk on behalf of Leukaemia Research. It will start in Taunton on 10 October and take in nine towns before finishing in Durham eight days later.

see also
Flintoff's batting woes continue
08 May 08 |  Counties
Flintoff will be fine - Anderson
08 May 08 |  Lancashire
England pair help Lancs roar back
07 May 08 |  Counties
Justin Langer column
01 May 08 |  Cricket
First-ball failure for Flintoff
24 Apr 08 |  Counties
Flintoff shines for on-song Lancs
23 Apr 08 |  Counties
Flintoff targets Lord's comeback
21 Mar 08 |  England
England in no rush for Flintoff
27 Mar 08 |  England

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