Fairytale finish for Freddie?
It couldn't be set up any better for Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff in his last Test game for England with the scores level at 1-1 in a winner-takes-all Ashes finale.
The popular allrounder missed out on the last Test at Headingley, with only four days between the 3rd and 4th Test proving not enough time for him to prove his fitness.
This time because of England's capitulation there's been 13 days between Tests, more than enough time for Freddie to get himself ready for action.
England certainly missed him in Leeds; their bowling was severely below par with only Stuart Broad (4/1 to take the most 1st innings wickets for England) emerging with any credit taking 6 for 91, it was also Broad (along with Graeme Swann who's 9/2 to claim the most wickets for England in the 1st innings) that offered any resistance with the bat scoring a quick-fire 61 from 49 balls as the hosts desperately tried to delay the inevitable result.
Of course England couldn't hold on to force a draw as Australia levelled the series, and now they're in pole position to retain the urn they emphatically won down under in 2007.
With Flintoff back England's bowling attack should carry a lot more threat than that of the 4th Test - Freddie almost single-handedly won the 2nd Test at Lord's, looking threatening every time he came in to bowl and another performance like that could swing the initiative back in favour of The Three Lions after it's swung in both teams favour throughout the summer.
The Lancashire man is quoted in quite a few markets; 10/1 to top score for England in the 1st innings, 7/2 to take the most wickets for England in the 1st innings and he's 8/1 to bow out of Test cricket with a man of the match performance (like at Lord's).
As well as Flintoff coming back, there has also been changes in the batting department - Ian Bell (5/1 to top score in the 1st innings for England) has moved up to number three despite his poor showing at Headingley, Jonathan Trott (also 5/1) has come in for the severely misfiring Ravi Bopara and is likely to bat at four, as he does for Warwickshire.
The Aussies have a clean bill of health going into the decider, with Brett Lee (7/2 to take the most wickets for Australia in the 1st innings) looking back to full fitness, and performing well in the warm up game at Canterbury against the Lions - taking 3 wickets for 37 runs. Whether or not the selectors will want to change their line-up after demolishing England at the start of the month is another matter but it's certainly a good problem to have if you're in the Australian camp.
The match odds look like this; England, with the returning Flintoff, are available at a big price of 4/1 which is sure to be popular with the patriotic punter, the draw would be good enough for Ricky Ponting's men to keep The Ashes and that's a 6/5 shot while the tourists are 11/8 to win the match and claim a 2-1 series win.
The Aussies have generally been solid with the bat in this tour, even in the defeat at Lord's they still managed 406 2nd innings runs, one of their main threats has been Marcus North who again is priced generously at 13/2 to top score for Australia in the 1st innings, the top scorer in the series so far is Michael Clarke and he is available at 9/2 to grab the most 1st innings runs for Australia.
For England, Andrew Strauss has been the standout player with the bat, averaging just short of 50 and could be the man again to top score in the 1st innings, the captain is a 3/1 shot to achieve this.
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