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Andrew Flintoff was content with his return to first-class cricket but insisted that his fragile left ankle will require constant supervision for the rest of his career.
Flintoff's ankle was operated on over the winter and he made his comeback for Lancashire in their drawn match against Surrey at The Oval over the past four days. He only made 23 with the bat but returned the encouraging figures of 1 for 72 from 28 steady overs in Surrey's mammoth 537 for 5 declared.
"From a fitness point of view I thought I kept my pace up all the way through my spells, maybe there is a little bit more in there but not a great deal," Flintoff said at The Oval, when the fourth and final day was washed out. "It was quite a placid pitch and it was about focusing on getting it in the right areas given the players they've got in their team.
"I have always been confident coming back but when you've had four operations you have a bit more knowledge about your ankle. I just turned up here to play a game of cricket under no concern about how my fitness was going to be.
"I just turned up here to play a game of cricket under no concern about how my fitness was going to be."
In the past, Flintoff has rushed his comeback from ankle surgery. Combined with his heavy workload this has caused a recurrence of the injury but, this time round, he hopes it might be fourth time lucky.
"Coming out of the operation, hopefully it is cured clinically but then probably from a workload point of view - I have come back from the previous operations and played for a period of time - maybe if I played for a period of time, for 10 or 12 months, and break the cycle of bowling 150 overs, 200 overs and breaking down I will be happy," he said. "But I am going to have to keep working on my ankle, my left leg and calf in particular.
"So I will probably be on some sort of rehab programme now for the rest of my career." With the first Test against New Zealand only a month away, Flintoff admitted his keenness to be selected but remained cautious about his chances.
"I would love to be involved on May 15, there is obviously no change there, but I know I have to perform," he said. "It's nice to get 28 overs under my belt and bowl quite nicely but I have to score some runs as well, which I am working hard to do and fully aware of."