Andrew Flintoff retires from Test cricket August 25, 2009

The Flintoff story in numbers

Andrew Flintoff's career numbers are ultimately underwhelming, but against the best team of his era he stepped it up

Numbers can never do full justice to Andrew Flintoff: a Test career which fetches 3845 runs at an average of 31.77, and 226 wickets at a touch under 33 will do nicely for most players, but from a player touted as one of the best allrounders of this era, these are somewhat underwhelming. These stats support Peter Roebuck's assertion - and Flintoff's own statements - that his career has been more about competence and stout-hearted performances than about sustained out-and-out greatness.

There were periods of his career, though, when Flintoff delivered on his promise and then some. The two-and-a-half year period between January 2004 and June 2006 saw Flintoff at his pomp with both bat and ball - his batting average almost touched 40, with three of his five centuries coming then, the bowling average slipped to below 26, with his average wickets per Test exceeding four, and he picked up four out of six Man-of-the-Match awards. He was the only player to score 1000 runs and take 50 wickets during this 30-month period.

Unfortunately for him, though, this span only took him through 33 of his 79 Tests. Over the rest of his career, his numbers slipped drastically. In his first 29 matches, he picked up a mere 52 wickets - less than two per game - and needed almost 16 overs to strike, hardly the kind of stats which reflect a potent strike bowler. Similarly, in his last 17 matches, he took only 40 wickets at an average touching 40. During both these periods, his batting came down a few notches from its peak too.

Flintoff's Test career in three parts
Period Runs Average 100s Wkts Average 5WI Strike rate
First 29 Tests (till Dec '03) 1209 25.72 2 52 45.55 0 94.7
Next 33 Tests (Jan '04 to Jun '06) 1918 39.95 3 134 25.80 2 50.8
Last 17 Tests (Jul '06 to Aug '09) 718 27.61 0 40 39.57 1 802
Career (79 Tests) 3845 31.77 5 226 32.78 3 66.1

It's impossible to talk about Flintoff without bringing Ian Botham into the picture. Both were flamboyant, capable of changing the course of a game with bat and ball, and both relished the challenges of an Ashes contest more than most. Botham had the better average as batsman and bowler, scoring more than 33 runs per dismissal and conceding less than 29 per wicket. However, the difference was much starker in terms of their abilities to put in major performances: Botham had 12 centuries and an incredible 27 five-wicket hauls, compared to just five and three for Flintoff. Botham also had twice the number of Man-of-the-Match awards - 12 to six.

Both enjoyed the Australian challenge - exactly half of those awards for them came against Australia. Botham's batting average dropped a bit against them, but it was still higher than his bowling average.

Most of the stats below favour Botham, but one area in which Flintoff clearly stole a march was in performances against the leading team of the era. In Botham's case, that team was undoubtedly West Indies, and Botham undoubtedly struggled against them. In 20 Tests, he didn't score a single century - his highest being 81 - and his 61 wickets came at a relatively high average of more than 35. He did win one match award, at Lord's in 1984, for scores of 30 and 81 and eight wickets in the first innings, though he leaked 117 off 20.1 wicketless overs in the second innings as West Indies chased down a target of 344 losing only one wicket.

On the other hand, Flintoff has done much better against the top team of his era, though he did lead the team to a rather sorry 5-0 thrashing in 2006-07.

Comparing Botham and Flintoff
  Tests Runs Average 100s Wkts Average 5WI MoM awards
Ian Botham - career 102 5200 33.54 14 383 28.40 27 12
Andrew Flintoff - career 79 3845 31.77 5 226 32.78 3 6
Botham v Aus 36 1673 29.35 4 148 27.65 9 6
Flintoff v Aus 15 906 33.55 1 50 33.20 2 3
Botham v West Indies 20 792 21.40 0 61 35.18 3 1

Flintoff's bowling average against Australia are good enough to win him fourth spot among bowlers who've taken at least 25 Test wickets against them since 2000. Only Dale Steyn, Harbhajan Singh and Muttiah Muralitharan have done better, while two other high-class spinners, Anil Kumble and Daniel Vettori, have both been pushed back. Flintoff, though, is the only one among the top seven not to have a ten-wicket haul against them.

Best bowlers against Australia in Tests since 2000 (Qual: 25 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Dale Steyn 6 34 27.79 46.2 2/ 1
Harbhajan Singh 13 77 27.80 56.0 7/ 3
Muttiah Muralitharan 6 37 32.59 61.4 4/ 1
Andrew Flintoff 15 50 33.20 59.2 2/ 0
Daniel Vettori 13 51 33.41 67.6 6/ 1
Anil Kumble 14 74 33.72 58.1 7/ 2
Makhaya Ntini 15 58 34.74 59.2 2/ 1
Merv Dillon 7 27 35.88 55.9 0/ 0
Jacques Kallis 18 41 36.87 63.6 0/ 0
Matthew Hoggard 12 35 38.11 62.8 1/ 0

Head-to-head battles

Some of his best moments came against Australia, so it's hardly surprising that plenty of Australians figure in the list of batsmen he's dismissed most often in Tests. His head-to-head stats (only since December 2001) indicate he had his share of victories against top-class batsmen. Matthew Hayden struggled against him in 2005, and had an overall average of 31.33 against him, falling six times in 407 deliveries. Mahela Jayawardene was the other batsman who Flintoff dismissed six times, at an even lower average.

Five Australians figure in the top seven, which indicates what a force Flintoff was against them. He was especially effective against their left-handers: apart from Hayden, Justin Langer, Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist all lost more battles against him than they won.

He had some success against another high-class left-hander: Brian Lara was dismissed by him four times in 263 deliveries, and averaged a touch over 27. Stephen Fleming fared worse, scoring 75 runs while falling to him four times.

Some of the other batsmen had more success against him, but none more than Michael Clarke, who didn't fall to Flintoff even once in 375 deliveries (62.3 overs, or Flintoff bowling continuously to him without success for more than two sessions), during which period he scored 195 runs. A couple of left-handers from New Zealand and South Africa played him well too - Mark Richardson and Gary Kirsten faced 200 or more deliveries without surrendering their wicket. Inzamam-ul-Haq, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid all averaged more than 50 against him.

Flintoff against each batsman in Tests (since Dec 2001)
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate
Matthew Hayden 188 407 6 31.33 2.77
Mahela Jayawardene 151 341 6 25.16 2.65
Ricky Ponting 226 424 5 45.20 3.19
Graeme Smith 249 436 5 49.80 3.42
Simon Katich 134 341 5 26.80 2.35
Justin Langer 121 221 5 24.20 3.28
Adam Gilchrist 121 186 5 24.20 3.90
Neil McKenzie 62 129 5 12.40 2.88
Jacques Kallis 139 372 4 34.75 2.24
Brian Lara 109 263 4 27.25 2.48
Ramnaresh Sarwan 105 203 4 26.24 3.10
Stephen Fleming 75 192 4 18.75 2.34
Damien Martyn 60 113 4 15.00 3.18
Rahul Dravid 154 470 3 51.33 1.96
Sachin Tendulkar 133 342 2 66.50 2.33
Inzamam-ul-Haq 86 178 1 86.00 2.89
Michael Clarke 195 375 0 - 3.12
Virender Sehwag 76 127 0 - 3.59
Mark Richardson 78 262 0 - 1.78
Gary Kirsten 76 200 0 - 2.28

In the Ashes series Flintoff has generally been a huge force against left-hand batsmen, but overall in his career, he had more success against the right-handers, averaging 27.34 against them (bat runs conceded only, since December 2001). Against the left-handers he was a touch more economical, but conceded more than 36 runs per wicket.

Flintoff against right and left-handers, since Dec 2001
Batsman type Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate
Right-handers 4074 8709 149 27.34 2.80
Left-handers 2530 5774 70 36.14 2.62

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo