Andrew Flintoff hit his highest Test score on English soil for four years to lead an aggressive England fightback and propel them towards a healthy lead in the third Ashes Test. The Three Lions finished their first innings at Edgbaston on 376 all out and lead Australia by 113 runs. Flintoff, 31, who is due to retire from Test cricket at the end of the 2009 Ashes series, hit a brilliant 74 off 79 balls to help England claim a 53-run lead by reaching 316 for seven at tea on the fourth day. Playing on the ground where he recorded his highest Test score of 167 against West Indies five years ago, Flintoff engineered an impressive England response just as Australia seemed to be taking control. Beginning the fourth day trailing by 147 runs on 116 for two, after the third day was washed out by heavy rain, England lost two wickets to the Australian swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus before lunch in a shortened morning session. The England captain Andrew Strauss was his first victim, edging behind for 60 when trying to cut, and Paul Collingwood was caught at second slip just two balls before the interval. Ian Bell marked his return to England's Test side with a half-century but fell shortly after lunch when Mitchell Johnson won an lbw decision against him with an inswinger. Bell's demise left England still 95 runs adrift with five wickets down but Flintoff and wicketkeeper Matt Prior combined in a productive 89-run stand off 97 balls. They helped England race from 200 to 250 in just 38 balls with the stand only being broken when Prior mistimed an attempted pull off Siddle straight to mid-on for 41. Flintoff fell just three overs before tea when he gloved off-spinner Nathan Hauritz to slip having hit 10 fours and a six his highest Test score in England since scoring 102 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 2005.
* PA Sport