Ashes 2010: Andrew Flintoff – A True Ashes Great

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Ashes 100-1 Countdown: 64 Days Until the Ashes…

Following on from Darren Corr’s excellent reflection piece on the Freddy Flintoff retirement yesterday, David Green, aka “The Reverse Sweep” looks into the reasons why he was loved so much.

Andrew Flintoff bestrode the 2005 Ashes (the greatest cricket series ever after Bodyline?) as England finally won the little urn again for the first time after 18 years of absolute hammerings at the hands of a string of superlative Australian sides. Unless you are reading this on Mars, you will also know that Flintoff finally bowed to the inevitable and retired from cricket last week.

As such, it seems opportune that we salute Freddie in our Ashes 100-1 countdown today and give ten reasons why cricket lovers and England fans in particular will remember him fondly.

1. Edgbaston 2005

Flintoff reached his zenith in the second test at Edgbaston in 2005. After hitting 68 (off 62 balls) and taking three for 52 in the first innings, he rescued England’s second innings with a wondrous 73, which included some monstrous hitting during a last wicket stand of 51 with Simon Jones. Then with Australia cruising towards their target of 282, Flintoff came on to bowl with the score at 47/0. Seven balls later (one was a no-ball), Langer and Ponting had departed and England were on their way after the finest overs this writer has ever witnessed. Flintoff ended up with four for 79 and still found time to console Brett Lee in that iconic moment at the end. Even the Ian Botham of 1981 couldn’t have surpassed Flintoff’s achievements in this match.

2. But it wasn’t just Edgbaston in 2005…

Freddie was at the peak of his powers in the 2005 Ashes and in our view was the central figure and inspiration for England’s success along with skipper Michael Vaughan. 402 runs and 24 wickets in the series suggests we may well be correct and as well as the other England bowlers performed, Messrs Jones, Harmison, Hoggard and Giles would admit that it was Freddie’s sustained brilliance at the other end that helped them get some of the wickets they gained. Flintoff’s belief and refusal to bow down to the Australians as previous England teams had was the catalyst for this remarkable triumph.

3. You could never take your eyes off him

A devastating batsman on his day who could clear the ropes with ease and a bowler capable of speeds in excess of 90 mph. When you add his unerring accuracy and ability to get reverse swing, that is a pretty potent combination. There aren’t many cricketers that empty bars when they are batting and bowling, but Flintoff was one of them.

4. Mind the windows, Tino

Australians seemed to warm to Freddie. Here was a guy who gave his all on the pitch and then enjoyed himself off it. And like our Antipodean cousins he wasn’t short of a word or two, as the clip below shows. First of all, Fred puts Dwayne Bravo in his place before hilariously talking Tino Best into something foolish…

5. He liked a drink

Freddie endeared himself to cricket supporters because in many ways he seemed just like one of them, if albeit a little more talented. He liked a laugh and he certainly enjoyed a drink. From cavorting on a pedalo in the early hours to (allegedly) relieving himself in the garden of 10 Downing Street after the 2005 Ashes win, the stories of Fred’s fondness of a tipple are legion. As such it probably wasn’t a surprise that there were a number of references to Flintoff’s capacity for drink when he announced his retirement last week. Our favourite one came from Michael Vaughan on Twitter:

“Fred had an unbelievable ability to put six bottles of beer in his mouth at once and down the lot. Quite remarkable”

6. A worthy successor to Botham

Most of the commentators last week agreed that Flintoff fitted into the “good” rather than “great” category. We’re not so sure. Certainly, if you look at Flintoff’s overall test stats then the critics would seem to be right. But if you split Flintoff’s career into three stages – the Formative years, the Peak years and the Final years, then things look a little bit different:

Andrew Flintoff – Test career record
Span Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Wkts BBI Bowl Av 5
Total 1998-2009 79 3845 167 31.77 5 226 5/58 32.78 3
Formative 1998-2002 21 643 137 19.48 1 33 4/50 47.15 0
2003-2007 46 2738 167 38.56 4 164 5/58 28.97 2
464 74 27.29 0 29 5/92 38.00 1

When you add in the fact that Fred was a game-changer and the man for the big occasion, then the “great” tag could certainly be applied to him for the period 2003-07.

7. He was a great ODI cricketer

Along with Marcus Trescothick and Kevin Pietersen, Flintoff is one of the few England players to consistently shine in the ODI arena since England forgot how to play the format after the 1992 World Cup. Certainly, even in comparison to Ian Botham, Freddie was a great ODI player.

Andrew Flintoff – ODI career record
Span Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Wkts BBI Bowl Av 5
Total 1999-2009 141 3394 123 32.01 3 169 5/19 24.38 2
Formative 1999-2002
847 84 24.20 0 36 4/17 29.63 0
Peak 2003-2007
2243 123 35.60 3 110 5/56 23.61 1
Final 2008-2009
304 78* 38.00 0 23 5/19 19.82 1
Ian Botham – ODI career record
1976-1992 116 2113 79 23.21 0 145 4/31 28.54 0

8. He won the Ashes on one leg

If Flintoff was the central figure in England’s 2005 Ashes triumph, he was only a peripheral injury hit figure in 2009. However, when he did contribute it was invariably at crucial times. At Lord’s, where England hadn’t won since 1934, the partnership between Clarke and Haddin had England visibly nervous as Australia chased down 522. But Fred stepped in on the fifth morning with a lion-hearted spell, dodgy knee and all,  to take a five-wicket haul. Then with Ponting and Hussey compiling a big partnership as Australia chased another huge target in the deciding test at The Oval, it was Flintoff who ran out the Australian captain. It has proved to be a fitting epitaph.

9. A fantastic slipper

Just like Botham, Fred was as good a slip fielder as he was a batsman or bowler. In other words a true all-rounder. And when you chuck in the extra-curricular activities off the field then England have had the fortune of producing two larger than life all-rounders in the last 30 years. Here’s one of our favourite Flintoff catches:

10. Freddie has already found another job

Just to prove that he is a man of the people, the picture below would suggest that Freddie has already found another vocation. It certainly looks more worthy than the comfort of the Sky commentary box.

What are your favourite Freddie moments???

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