England are refusing to put a date on Andrew Flintoff’s return to international cricket as they begin their journey home following Test series success in New Zealand.

The team fly back on Thursday having clinched a 2-1 win with victory in final Test at Napier on Wednesday.

Coach Peter Moores is now looking ahead to the summer and the return series against New Zealand, which is followed by four Tests against South Africa.

Their options for both series would be improved considerably if they could call upon the services of Lancashire all-rounder Flintoff, who is now playing again following a fourth operation on his troublesome left ankle.

But England are remaining patient over the 30-year-old Ashes hero and are willing to give him time to recover his match sharpness and fitness before they consider recalling him.

“We’re deliberately not putting a date on it,” stressed Moores. “He’s got to be fit and feeling good about himself first.

“Andrew’s progress is very promising. He’s bowling and the reports back are good. The key for him is not to push it until he feels very happy in himself and the medical staff are very happy at where he’s at.

flintoff.jpg“When he’s in the right sort of form then we will make the decision of how and where he will fit into that England team.

“It’s nice he’s progressing so well because as a cricketer he’s one of those player that can make a real difference.”

Flintoff, who featured in all but one of Lancashire’s games on their pre-season tour in Dubai, has targeted that first Test against New Zealand on May 15 as a possible return date.

But with England winning their last two Tests against the Kiwis and both Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison also competing for places in the side after being dropped, they can possibly afford to wait for the return of Flintoff.

“The progression he’s going through at the moment with Lancashire is for him to get stuck into the season,” said Moores.

“Naturally that will happen and he’ll get a chance to play as a batsman and a bowler and get battle-hardened again in county cricket after a reasonable time out.”

Flintoff could possibly play 23 days of senior cricket before the first Test with matches for the MCC against Sussex in the traditional season curtain-raiser and all of Lancashire’s fixtures before then.