England v Australia, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 3rd day August 6, 2005

'I'm Andrew Flintoff, and this is the way I play'



He's Andrew Flintoff, and that's the way he plays © Getty Images

Andrew Flintoff could hardly contain his excitement after what he called "probably my best day in international cricket to date". With England on the verge of a series-levelling triumph at the end of yet another astonishing day, a fired-up Freddie tried hard to keep his feet on the ground, even overcoming a comedy moment when the theme tune from Top Cat starting blaring out around the room.

"We've got to come out with the same intent in the morning," said England's very own TC, toeing the party line that there are two wickets to fall and it isn't all over yet. (Try telling that to the crowd, who were still baying his name long after the close.) "I went in to bat at a tricky time," Flintoff admitted, "but that was an important stand with Simon Jones, as it shifted the momentum back into our dressing-room."

It also pepped him up for a stellar stint with the ball: "I was probably still on a high when I bowled, buzzing from the batting. I came on at a nice time - the ball had just started reverse-swinging."

His very first over put the skids under Australia, as it accounted for Justin Langer and, after a magical mix of swerving deliveries, for a scoreless Ricky Ponting too. "Yeah, that's probably the best first over I've ever bowled. I was slightly fortunate to get Justin, as it hit his arm and his thigh - but to Ricky the first four balls were reverse-swinging, and I thought I'll just swap it round here, and it went! It was great."

There was a minor injury scare, when he started rubbing his shoulder after a lavish carve out to point early in his innings. "It was painful at first - I thought it was going to fall off at one point!" said Fred, grimacing theatrically. "I had some treatment and a painkiller at lunchtime and it was all right after that really. It was a late decision to hit it through the off side off the back foot. It's no secret that I favour my bottom hand, so I probably tried to get the left arm out of the way too quick."

And his summary of his memorable day? "I'm Andrew Flintoff, and this is the way I play."

It was a memorable day for Shane Warne, too. And he hasn't given up hope of Sunday also being one to remember: "I really hate losing, so I'll be trying to fight tomorrow. Brett Lee can bat a bit, and Kasper ... well, he's probably due! I've got past my horrendous slog in the first innings, so we'll be trying hard."

He admitted, though, that the last-ball dismissal of Michael Clarke was a body blow to Australia's already slender hopes. "I felt for him - the way he played for 91 at Lord's, and he played beautifully again here. It was a disappointment to lose him in that last over, but you've got to give credit to Steve Harmison for coming up with that slower ball."

Warne played tribute to Flintoff, too: "He was fantastic. He's a guy anyone would want in their side, the go-to man for England. Some of those drives off the back shoe off Brett ... amazing."

And what about the Flintoff-Jones stand, which extended the target by 51 vital runs? "I don't know that it was demoralising, but it just gave England momentum. Last-wicket partnerships are like that, it's nice to go in on a high - like we did with that wicket [Andrew Strauss] last night."

Warne's 10 wickets leave him stranded on 599 going into the next Test at Old Trafford, which is where he announced his entry into Ashes cricket with that famous ball to Mike Gatting back in 1993. "Whoever writes my scripts seems to be doing it right - 599 going into Old Trafford, which is a very special place for me. And my parents are coming over, which was always planned. So I hope to get at least one wicket there for the 600."

And Warne concluded: "I feel good about my bowling. In the last few years there hasn't been a lot of five-day Tests, so to spin the ball as I have at Lord's and in this game, I must be doing something right."

Steven Lynch is deputy editor of the Wisden Group