NOTTINGHAM, England:England captain Michael Vaughan cannot wait to have star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff back for the Test series with South Africa even if it creates a headache over who to drop.
Flintoff hasn't played a Test since January 2007, against Australia in Sydney, after being sidelined with ankle and, more recently, side injuries.
But even though England wrapped up a 2-0 series victory over New Zealand with a crushing innings and nine run win in the third and Test at Trent Bridge here Sunday, their fourth success in five Tests against the Black Caps, Vaughan would love to have the 30-year-old fast bowler back against the Proteas.
However, while his bowling form at county level has been encouraging, Flintoff has struggled for runs.
England's pace trio of Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and James Anderson all took their turn in the spotlight against New Zealand with Anderson, a Lancashire team-mate of 'Freddie' starring with a career-best seven for 43 at Trent Bridge.
Any of those three would have a right to feel hard done by if dropped for the first Test against South Africa at Lord's on July 10.
But Flintoff could return in place of either Paul Collingwood or Ian Bell after the middle-order batsmen, both struggling for runs, were each dismissed for nought in Nottingham.
Flintoff was the fulcrum of England's five-man attack during their victorious 2005 Ashes campaign and getting him back in the side ahead of next year's clash with Australia has an obvious appeal.
"I hope he will get his side right in the next few weeks, get enough cricket and be confident in himself and in his form that he can take on South Africa," Vaughan said.
"You would love five (bowlers). But I am also happy with four. The balance of the team is very important when you play a good team like South Africa."
Flintoff will have only one four-day championship match for Lancashire in which to prove his fitness for Test cricket and Vaughan said: "It will probably be Freddie who will have to make the call.
"If he is confident enough in his own form and his body whether he plays against South Africa. Everyone knows that, if he is fit, I would love to have him in the team."
England's series success over New Zealand saw them leapfrog South Africa into third place in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings by just a point.
And Flintoff's return would make what already looks like being a close, four-match contest all the more intriguing according to New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori.
"I suppose there is always that dangling of Flintoff in the corner and if you throw him in the mix then you have got a very complete team," he said.
"Once he comes back they are going to be a very tough side to beat for anyone. The England-South Africa series will be a very good one to watch."
And Vaughan, whose side have failed to reach the benchmark first innings total of 400 in their last 12 Tests, knows that his side will have to go up a level against Graeme Smith's men.
England did well to get from 86 for five to 364 all out, having lost the toss, but Vaughan would rather they didn't have to keep digging themselves out of a hole.
"It is a position we would like not to have been in but the partnership between Kevin Pietersen (115) and Tim Ambrose (67) set us up for a good score," said Vaughan.
"A sign of a good team is getting out of these positions but a sign of a really good team is not getting into them in the first place."