Andrew Flintoff described England's World Cup opener against New Zealand as "a huge game in the context of the World Cup".
Andrew Flintoff has described England's World Cup opener against New Zealand as "a huge game in the context of the World Cup".
England start their campaign today against New Zealand, the other Test-playing side in their group with both teams looking to claim an important victory.
The tournament rules state the points gained from results against fellow qualifiers will count towards the next stage and possible progress to the semi-finals.
They are two equally-matched teams and Flintoff conceded: "It's going to be a huge game in the context of the World Cup.
"It's the two top-seeded teams in the group, both of which will be expecting to go through without taking anything away from Kenya and Canada.
"The two sides look very similar on paper in the make-up of the teams and they both had success in the winter so it could be a good contest."
Flintoff is aiming to finally make his mark on World Cup history after admitting he is better equipped than ever before to become one of the stars of the tournament.
The Lancashire all-rounder is the most experienced member of England's squad with 112 one-day international appearances and two previous World Cups to his name.
Since first being picked for the 1999 World Cup aged just 21, Flintoff has developed into one of the world's best all-rounders – yet he is still waiting to light up the premier one-day tournament.
Both of his previous tournaments have been undermined by events off the field, with England's 1999 campaign being derailed even before the start with a pay dispute over appearance money and bonuses.
Then four years later England exited at the first stage again, this time after days of discussions about the moral implications of playing their opening match in Zimbabwe.
In 1999 Flintoff only got to the crease twice during the defeats to South Africa and India and was so distraught at England's abject displays that he left his kit on the team coach and never bothered trying to get it back.
Four years later expectations of him were greater and although he played important innings against India and Australia, England once again left early and Flintoff finished the tournament being fined by the team management for missing a social obligation.
It has made Flintoff all the more hungry to make his mark on this tournament, stressing: "The last World Cup almost kick-started my career and I'm keen to perform in this one and play a major role for England.
"If you look at other sports the World Cup is the pinnacle of players' careers and in the one-day format, this is it for us – this is what you build for, this is what you want to play in and this is what you want to perform in.
"It's exciting, it's a big stage and a chance for people to shine. You want to perform on the biggest stage, that's the measure of a player performing on the big occasions in the big tournaments."
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Jofra Archer, Rory Burns and Joe Denly have been handed central contracts by England after their summer performances.
Warwickshire batsman Dominic Sibley delivered another timely reminder that he may be the man for England’s winter tour.
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