|Flintoff believes the current England team are so good they would even beat the legends of 2005 that broke Australian domination. Flintoff has been watching the progress of his successors and agrees this England side is ahead of Michael Vaughan’s golden group that wrestled the Ashes back after 16 years. Now retired, Flintoff was the star of that 2005 summer as the greatest side of a generation were brought to heel by 11 England players who peaked at just the right time but never played together again.But he believes the new group are superior by having every department covered by quality both in and out of the starting XI of a series. “This is a better side than the one we had in 2005,” he asserted. “The strength of it and the depth of it is incredible.
“In 2005 we had 11 players who had a memorable few weeks and played at their best for a period, but we never played together again. Colly [Paul Collingwood] came in for the last one, but essentially it was just a team. “We had a few big wins before 2005, but it was all about peaking for that series and we did, but we couldn’t sustain it due to injuries and retirements.
“This side have a squad and they are so strong. We’ve seen them replace players without blinking and it has made no difference to the performance. “They’re the best team out there. There might have been a question before the start of the series but after these two performances there is no question.” Flintoff’s England career was cut short by injury following the Ashes win of 2009, but he admitted it is the county scene with Lancashire he wants another taste of.
The all-rounder was planning on a year or two playing for the Red Rose county, adding to what he believes is a flourishing domestic game, and he is keen to see it recognised for its contribution. He added: “The strength in depth of the England team is the strongest we’ve ever had it, but I would make an important point here. When we were getting hammered in the 1990s and early 2000s and we couldn’t buy a Test match everyone was blaming county cricket.
“Because Australia were doing well the state system was seen as the best. Well now things have changed I want to know whether those doom-mongers would give county cricket the recognition it deserves. It is a tough competition and the two divisions have had an impact. I’ve seen how hard the lads work and it is something to be proud of. “I don’t think it is a coincidence that England are the best team in the world with what goes on in the county game.”
With a burgeoning media career and sporting academy to look after Flintoff spends less and less time around the England team, but he has been impressed by the re-emergence of Stuart Broad this summer. He added: “Stuart has been brilliant in the way he has responded to a dip in form and he’s got that nonsense about ‘the enforcer’ out of his system. “We’ve seen Broady’s strength in this Test match. He’s got the ability to swing it and together with the odd bouncer and variation he is a danger when he pitches it up.”