Flintoff the best, says Vaughan
Ahead of the Old Trafford Test, Michael Vaughan went out on a limb and admitted that he agreed with those who were referring to Andrew Flintoff as the world's best cricketer. Flintoff has played only one Test on his home ground, and is guaranteed a hero's welcome when we takes the field against West Indies in the third Test.
Vaughan didn't hold back when asked about the man who has averaged 47 with the bat and 30 with the ball in his last 16 Tests. "At the minute he's on the crest of a wave, he's playing exceptionally well," said Vaughan. "People talk about him being a powerful hitter, but not a lot of people mention what a good technique he has.
"The crowd here will obviously go mad when he goes out to the wicket, but he's got to try to control his emotions and if he can do that, the way he's playing he'll get another big score."
Flintoff's ability to belt the cover off a cricket ball was never in doubt, but in recent times, he has tempered that with commendable discipline. Where he once got out going for one shot too many while playing to the gallery, he now plays himself in before causing the bowlers grief. Evidence of that was served in the second Test at Edgbaston, when he slammed an audacious 167 to inspire another rout of the West Indies.
Vaughan was in no doubt that increased restraint had made Flintoff a more lethal proposition. "That's the progression of Freddie over the last year," he said. "A year or so ago, he'd be the first to admit when the crowd roared he'd try and hit the first ball out of the ground for six, get 20-odd and then get out.
"He's learned a hell of a lot from that and his experiences. Someone mentioned the other day that he's the best cricketer in the world at the minute and I'm certainly not going to argue with that."
For Vaughan, the cherry on top has come in the shape of Flintoff's bowling. With an ankle injury restricting him to short bursts, he has been used as a strike bowler, rather than in the tourniquet role that he used to perform. And at Edgbaston, it paid rich dividends, with Flintoff accounting for both Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan. Of course, the true test of his calibre will come next summer, when certain visitors arrive wearing baggy green caps.