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Flintoff says England has to avoid another loss at all costs

Flintoff says England has to avoid another loss at all costs

Another demoralizing loss has England captain Andrew Flintoff facing a scenario he can't even bare to contemplate.
Sixteen months after ending its Ashes drought with a 2-1 series upset in England, the English are staring down the barrel of a 5-0 series whitewash in Australia.
Australia won the fourth test by an innings and 99 runs on Thursday and heads to Sydney with high expectations of next week becoming only the second team to sweep a five-match Ashes series.
That was last achieved in 1920-21 by Warwick Amrstrong's lineup.
"It's been a tough trip, another tough three days," the England allrounder said of losses in north, south, west and now east Australia. "I'm disappointed, upset ... the emotions are all negative, but we've got one game left. We don't want to leave this country having been rolled over 5-nil."
Flintoff was among the stars when England ended Australia's eight series domination last year, feted by millions of English people including the queen.
Since then, he's had to recover from an ankle operation, take over the captaincy in the absence of injured Michael Vaughan and lead a side missing the likes of swing bowler Simon Jones and ex-vice captain Marcus Trescothick.
The expectations of thousands of traveling fans, collectively dubbed the "Barmy Army," are also resting on him.
Somehow, he has to work out a way to bring his team back from the brink against Ricky Ponting and his vengeful Australians, who're aiming to send out Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath _ two of their greatest bowlers of all time _ with a 5-0 sweep.
"As bad as I feel now, come the game in Sydney we have to go out there and put on a show," Flintoff said. "There's a lot of pride and character in the team ... we're trying our best, the fans can see that and it would be nice to repay them with a win in Sydney."
Asked about the prospects of a 5-0 series defeat, Flintoff said the questions "stinks" too much to answer.
Avoiding that is not going to be easy. Warne and Ponting say Australia is still "hungry for success" and 5-0 is a serious ambition.
"We hurt after 2005, as we've said 4 million times," said Warne, voted player of the match in Melbourne with seven wickets and an unbeaten 40. "Now it's our time."
England lost the first test of the last series and rebounded to win two of the next three before holding on for a draw in the fifth match.
If everything clicks, and it must, says Flintoff, the world's second-ranked team can beat Australia.
"There's a few of us who feel they can play better on this trip, myself included," he said. "There's got to be more than three or four players performing in the same game, it's got to be six or seven. I'm not in the greatest form of my life but hopefully I can turn it round in Sydney."
Flintoff's credentials as captain has come into question, with some of the latitude given to new batsmen with his field settings surprising even the Australians.
But he defended the decision to bat first here after winning the toss in moist and overcast conditions that were perfect for seam bowlers, saying it was the most practical thing to do.
It seemed to be working when England reached 101 for two, but then it all fell apart. Warne took 5-39 to bundle England out for 159, then Australia replied with 419 despite being in trouble at 84 for five before Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden combined in a 279-run stand.
England was all out for 161 in its second innings on the third day.
Despite the flack and his dip in form, Flintoff maintains that he has not been burdened by the captaincy.
"I'm not using that as an excuse, I knew when I took the job it's a big job. My personal form I can't blame on having the captaincy, it's just the course of events."
It did not help that the English bowlers did not stick to the their plans, or that those plans were released to the public on Australian radio.
England's team management complained Wednesday that it's bowling plan might have been stolen from the team room at the MCG and leaked to the media.
But an investigation by local cricket authorities found that the plan had been lost by somebody on the England staff somewhere between a photocopier and the changing rooms and had been picked up by a member of the public who passed it on to a local radio network.
For Flintoff and co., time is fast running out for a new plan.