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January 25, 2005
The worst-kept secret in cricket is finally out in the open. It was confirmed this morning that Andrew Flintoff will return to England after the fifth Test against South Africa at Centurion. He will see a specialist on Friday, with a view to naming a date for surgery on his troublesome left heel. The timing of his departure is designed to leave Flintoff with as much time as possible to prepare for the Ashes series, which begins in July.
In Flintoff's absence, Matthew Hoggard - England's leading bowler in the Test series - will be retained in the squad, and can expect to play his first one-day internationals since the tour of Australia in 2002-03. Simon Jones will also be staying on as cover for Steve Harmison, whose damaged calf prevented him from taking the new ball in South Africa's second innings last night.
Flintoff's participation in the final Test had been in some doubt, but he played after a cortisone injection had eased some of the pain, and was England's most penetrative bowler, with figures of 4 for 44 in the first innings, and two early strikes on the fourth evening as well.
While England will miss a formidable presence in the one-day game when the seven-match ODI series begins, the surgery should ensure a fit attack in time for Australia's tour, where England will attempt to win a series against the Aussies for the first time since 1986-87.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.