Ashes hero Flintoff gives full backing to Broad

Former England captain Andrew Flintoff can not understand the controversy that has engulfed Stuart Broad but has backed his old team-mate to shine in the forthcoming Ashes series Down Under.

Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen celebrate as they beat Australia.

Broad has been under fire ever since he stood his ground despite clearly edging a delivery from Ashton Agar that was caught at first slip in the first Test between England and Australia at Trent Bridge in July.

His refusal to walk led to accusations of “blatant cheating” from Australia coach Darren Lehmann, who also called on the Australian public to “get stuck into him” this winter – comments that earned the 43-year-old a fine for breaching the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct.

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The matter was brought back into focus on Monday when Broad insisted he had no regrets, believing England may have lost a Test they won by 14 runs had he walked off.

Broad’s stance was yesterday supported by two-time Ashes winner Flintoff, who would have criticised the Nottinghamshire man if he accepted he was out before waiting for the umpire’s decision.

“I can’t believe that people have got on their high horses about it, players, ex-players, everyone. It happens every day in county cricket, every day in professional cricket,” said Flintoff.

“What are you going to do if a bowler got an lbw decision and it wasn’t out? Are you going to call him back?

“It’s part and parcel of the game. If I’d have been in the dressing room and Stuart Broad had walked and the umpire hadn’t given him out, I’d have had a right go at him.”

Broad is likely to be public enemy No 1 when the Ashes gets under way at Brisbane on November 21.

But with Australia champing at the bit to avenge a 3-0 series defeat in England, Flintoff has backed Broad to silence the doubters.

Flintoff believes the 27-year-old was unsure of his role in the team, but is now finding his groove –pointing out a match-winning spell of 6-50 in the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street – after playing to his strengths.

“Broad’s a very decent cricketer. I think in the past few months in his bowling, he’s figured out a way in which balls suit him,” said Flintoff, who scored 3845 runs and took 226 wickets in 79 Tests.

“He tried to have this role which was the worst one ever: the enforcer was just nonsense. He bowls nicely at mid-80s and can swing it, that’s his strength, stick to it. I think (in the past) he’s tried to bowl quick and he’s tried other things, but we’ve seen in the summer like at Chester-le-Street he bowled to his strengths.

“Don’t get carried away, don’t try and beat the crowd, don’t try and beat the press, and don’t get dragged into a slanging match with the opposition.

“The best way to shut them up is when they’re walking back with no runs under their belts.”

Flintoff also had encouraging words for England captain and opener Alastair Cook, who scored just 277 runs in 10 innings against Australia this year and had his captaincy called into the question by former leg-spinner Shane Warne among others.

Yet Flintoff said: “England won. Alastair Cook got criticism for his captaincy and he won 3-0. You had Shane Warne and the likes of that taking the mickey and having a go at him on the TV.

“You think ‘hang on a minute. How many Tests has he won as captain?’ He’s 26/27, he’s doing an amazing job.”

Flintoff believes uncapped Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes should be given a given a chance to prove himself in the Ashes.

Stokes was one of Durham’s star performers in their County Championship title-winning campaign and impressed in the one-day international series against Australia last month.

Stokes initially came through the ranks at Chester-le-Street as a batsman who could bowl, yet it has been his form as a seamer that has earned rave reviews both domestically and internationally in 2013.

He is vying with Yorkshire duo Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow for the No 6 spot in England’s batting line-up although Flintoff thinks the balance Stokes can give Alastair Cook’s men with his bowling, where he could be used as the fourth seamer, gives him the edge.

“I’d play him, I’d have him in the team,” said Flintoff. “He can bowl at 90mph and can bat at six, it’s a no-brainer for me.

“Over there, the bowlers have to earn their wickets and just having that other seamer who can bowl to give Jimmy (James Anderson) a rest, give (Stuart) Broad a rest and whoever the other one may be (the third seamer) is invaluable.

“And he can bat, I’d get him in straight away.”

England have not had an influential all-rounder in their line-up since two-time Ashes winner Flintoff himself announced his retirement from all forms of the game in 2009. Yet the former Lancashire man is convinced that Stokes can play a starring role.

Andrew Flintoff was talking in his role as an ambassador for bookmaker William Hill. Keep up to date with Flintoff’s Ashes views throughout the Ashes at www.williamhill.com.