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Page last updated at 07:17 GMT, Monday, 22 November 2010

Ashes: Flintoff confident England will beat Australia

First Ashes Test, Brisbane
Dates: 25-29 November Start time: 0000 GMT Coverage: Listen live to Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and online (UK only). Watch live on Sky Sports 1, highlights on ITV 4

Inside Sport - Freddie Flintoff: Ashes Warrior on BBC One at 2305 GMT, Monday 29 November

Double Ashes hero Andrew Flintoff says England have a better crop of players than Australia and expects them to retain the coveted urn.

With the series scheduled to start in Brisbane on Thursday, Flintoff told BBC Sport: "Looking at the two teams, I reckon we'll beat them."

The former England all-rounder thinks Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson and Graeme Swann can be the difference.

But he says Ricky Ponting's Australians should not be underestimated.

England won the Ashes in England in 2005 to end an 18-year wait for success in the competition, only for Australia to record a whitewash on home soil in 2006/7.

England then regained the Ashes in a closely-fought series in 2009 and are attempting to defend the urn by winning in Australia for the first time in 24 years.

"It's going to be interesting watching it but I think we'll just edge it," said Flintoff, who expects Pietersen to play a key role despite some indifferent performances.

"Kevin's taken a bit of stick recently because of his form but he's too good not to score runs.

"In 2006/7, when it went wrong for a lot of people, he came back and scored more then 500 runs. I think he'll do a similar thing this time."

Flintoff says Anderson is also a crucial figure.

Flintoff 'not yet come to terms with retirement'

"I've seen him grow up and seen the difference in him both on and off the field, " said Flintoff. "He's more confident as a bowler, he's more skilful, so I think he'll go well."

He also tips Swann to make a big impact after claiming his former team-mate has "reinvented the art of off-spin".

Flintoff added: "Cricket went through a time when you had to bowl a doosra, or have some mystery ball. Swanny has just brought back the old fashioned art of off-spin but brought it back well.

"He's a clever bowler. He's got his natural variations and I don't think Australia play off-spin too well."

However, Flintoff, who won the 2005 and 2009 Ashes but was captain of the embarrassing defeat in 2006/7, says Australia will still be a threat despite their recent struggles, losing a Test series in India as well as the final Test against Pakistan at Headingley.

"Any side led by Ricky Ponting has got a chance," Flintoff said. "Mitchell Johnson, too. In the last Ashes, everyone was criticising him but he took over 20 wickets. He's a wicket-taker."

Flintoff officially retired in September after an injury-plagued career in which he played 79 Tests, scoring five centuries and 26 half-centuries. His best Test bowling figures came against the West Indies in Barbados in 2004, when he took 5-58.

The talismanic Lancastrian has admitted he is still coming to terms with the end of his playing career.

"I look back at the 70-odd Tests I played and sometimes it was an effort to get on the field," he said. "I missed a lot of cricket through injury and when I did start playing again I cherished it even more.

"Every game I played for the last five years could have been my last, so I just wanted to enjoy it.

I'm only 32, I think I've got a bit left in me... both mentally and physically, I want to keep busy

Andrew Flintoff

"For the past few weeks, I've been travelling through Mexico, America and Canada for a television show, which probably came at a perfect time for me because it didn't allow me to face the realities of it all.

"The next few weeks, it will sink in a little bit more. Once the Ashes start, once the cricket starts again, that's when it will sink in.

"At this moment in time, I'm half expecting to start doing pre-season with Lancashire but obviously I'm not going to be."

He admitted there were some positive aspects to retirement. He gets to spend more time with his family as well as sampling some interesting pastimes.

"I've just come back from doing extreme sports stuff, jumping off cliffs, riding bulls and doing the skeleton at Whistler, drag racing, demolition derbies.

"It's all the stuff they wouldn't insure me for when I was playing. It's good fun but I'd like to do some more serious stuff, too."

Flintoff said he knew in his "heart of hearts" he was fighting a losing battle in his bid to resurrect his career after his second knee operation in August 2009.

He admitted he felt better "having closure" but says he will return to cricket again - for fun.

"I'm not going to lie to you, you hear some people retire say they're not going to miss it," said Flintoff. "I will. I enjoyed playing cricket.

"I'm only 32, I think I've got a bit left in me. Both mentally and physically, I want to keep busy."

Watch Inside Sport - Freddie Flintoff: Ashes Warrior on BBC One at 2305 GMT, Monday 29 November

Listen to the Ashes live on Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and online (UK users only) - series starts 25 November 2010. Archive: Relive past Ashes series

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see also
Watch BBC Sport's Ashes trail
19 Nov 10 |  Test Match Special
Flintoff's Test career in pictures
28 Sep 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
16 Sep 10 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
Australia selectors drop Hauritz
20 Nov 10 |  Australia
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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