South Africa v England, 5th Test, Centurion, 2nd day January 22, 2005

Flintoff fully focussed despite injury worries

Andrew Flintoff: riding the pain train © Getty Images

Despite an ongoing problem with his ankle, which may require surgery which would keep him out of next week's one-day series, Andrew Flintoff has vowed to postpone all thoughts of a possible early return to England, and is fully focussed on delivering a first series victory in South Africa for 40 years.

Flintoff's problem, a posterior impingement in his left ankle, is caused by an uneven bone growth in the heel, and it can be extremely painful when the foot bangs down in the delivery stride. He underwent a cortisone injection to enable him to play in this match, although any operation to remove the spur would require a three-month recovery period. With the Ashes looming next summer, the sooner it can be dealt with the better.

Flintoff, however, is not looking that far ahead. "I'm in constant touch with Kirk [Russell, the physio], and a decision will be made at the end of the Test," he said, after taking 4 for 44 to carry England into a promising position at the close. "But at the minute, my only aim is to get through the Test, and hopefully score a few runs as well, which would be nice."

Flintoff is no stranger to cortisone injections and their side-effects - he has endured them in his back and again in his ankle last summer - and he admitted he was not eager to undergo any more in this match unless absolutely necessary. "It is an option," he conceded. "The area in the ankle isn't ligaments but a pocket of inflammation, so it is at least a safe area.

"I'm certainly not looking to go home," he added. "We're 2-1 up and we're desperate to win the series, so I can think about nothing else. I've just got to try and get through. At this stage, I can't be running in worrying about it, especially when the ball is coming out nicely at the moment."

One minor plus for England's cause, is that in all the excitement, Flintoff's side injury - the one that made him a doubt for the fourth Test and caused Jon Lewis to be flown out as cover - has been largely overlooked. "To be honest," he said, "I've completely forgotten about that!"

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo. He has been following England's tour of South Africa.