Ashes 2017-18: Andrew Flintoff says England Test side is 'best we've ever had'

England regained the Ashes in 2015 in England with a 3-2 series win over Australia
The Ashes
Venue: Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney Dates: 23 November - 7 January
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff thinks the current Test side are the "best team we've ever had".

England fly out to Australia on 28 October and begin their defence of the Ashes in Brisbane on 23 November.

Flintoff, who was part of the 2005 Ashes winning side, said he "really believed" in England, despite Australia being favourites to win.

"It's not a case of England winning - it's by how many," the 39-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live.

"It's the type of side you'd want to be involved in, from the coach and the captain down. I think England will have a good winter.

"We've got Jimmy Anderson, who is England's best ever bowler; Alastair Cook, England's best ever batter. And you throw in the likes of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, who is fantastic - it's exciting times."

England's 16-man squad to tour Australia was criticised when it was announced, with BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew calling it "one of the weakest squads I've seen".

Preparations were also disrupted following vice-captain Ben Stokes' arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm after a nightclub incident in Bristol.

All-rounder Stokes has often been compared to Flintoff at his peak but the latter believes the Durham player is "so much better" than he was.

"He's a fantastic cricketer and it's flattering when he's compared to you. He's such an exciting talent but so too are many of the England side," he said.

"Obviously there's a few things going on at the minute. I've only seen what everybody else has seen and it's something that's being investigated so I'm not commenting on that."

'There are weaknesses in both teams'

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Nothing bigger than Ashes in Australia - James Anderson

England were whitewashed during their last tour of Australia in 2013-14, with no batsman scoring more than 300 runs as they struggled against fast bowler Mitchell Johnson.

Johnson has since retired, as has wicketkeeper Brad Haddin - whose middle-order counter-attacks cost England four years ago - and then-captain Michael Clarke.

Since that tour, England have had problems with their batting line-up, having struggled to put together a solid top-order since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.

But swing bowler Anderson - England's leading Test wicket-taker and part of the side that won the Ashes in Australia in 2010-11 - said that changes in both teams had left opportunities to be exploited.

"I see a lot of similarities in the two teams. The transition that both have gone through in the recent past is very similar," the 35-year-old said.

"There are weaknesses in both teams and they're going to try and exploit ours. It's our job to try and exploit theirs and cement the cracks we might have. If we can do that, we'll be in a good position."

Australia's plan to field four fast bowlers has been hampered, with James Pattinson ruled out of the series following the recurrence of a back injury.

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