England v Australia, 2nd npower Test, Lord's, 5th day July 20, 2009

Flintoff, bloody Flintoff

Four years on from his greatest moments, Andrew Flintoff was at it again with a match-winning performance

Bloody Andrew Flintoff. Bruised, battered, triumphant Andrew Flintoff. One bad leg, another great home Test against Australia. There he is, raising his arms again in his parting-the-waters pose, leading England closer to the Ashes promised land.

Minutes after the match Princess Anne was at the back of the pavilion, policemen clearing her way through the fans, but only a handful stopped to watch her pass. England cricket's royal was on the field, spectators shouting and bouncing at his latest effort to prevent an uprising from the Dominions.

He's a man who, given the condition of his right knee, should be kept to five-over spells. Not interested, his mind says. After his fourth-ball removal of Brad Haddin, who was caught at second slip, he spoke at Andrew Strauss. "Just to let you know I'll keep bowling until all the wickets are gone." He did, taking 3 for 43 in ten overs and toasting himself by lunch. No weak link or cartilage here, just more tormenting of Australia.

Everyone in England has 2005 tattooed on the brain, when England rode on Flintoff's back and the visiting batsmen's feet turned to concrete. The calendar says 2009 but perhaps time has frozen. Once again the Australians are trying to talk like they are still capable of dominating the contest; Flintoff is sitting back, lounging like he's puffing on a cigar. He would be fun to be out with tonight.

No wonder the home supporters don't mention the excessive drinking and disappointment of 2006-07. Why stain his contribution by looking at his failures? Always look on the bright side of life, without the irony.

He started with a fruity Sunday morning sermon to Phillip Hughes and finished with 5 for 92 the following day. Not the worst time for his third five-wicket haul in Tests. Despite the emotion and a twinging, throbbing knee, he is determined to make it to The Oval, bowing out with more industrial-strength noise.

"I'd do anything to get out on the field and finish the series," he said. "I bowled all my overs, I might have been in a bit of discomfort but I've been in discomfort most of my career. It's encouraging I can come in and bowl as many overs as I have done, it bodes well for the last three Tests."

Strauss rated Flintoff in the top three bowlers that opposition batsmen hate to face, due to his "consistent hostility". Ricky Ponting compared the potency of his top-class spells to those from Ambrose, Walsh and Akram, bowlers from an era few modern players can remember. Talk of Flintoff's injury and the possibility of him not making it through the series are not being listened to by the Australians.

"I think it's rubbish," Ponting said. "If Flintoff can bowl like that today I don't think he's in any danger of missing the next Test."

After taking care of both openers on the fourth day, Flintoff ended England's fears of an Australian world record with Haddin's edge. He followed up by bowling Nathan Hauritz and when an inswinger broke Peter Siddle's stumps Flintoff dropped to his knee. Accepting the applause - "I milked the crowd a little bit" - he was swamped by his team-mates who hugged the air from him.

On the Australian balcony there were glum, stubbled faces caused by a familiar foe. "We've always said that when he's up and running and bowling as well as he can he's as good as anyone probably going around," Ponting said. "He gives his all. His spells have not got shorter through the game."

And Flintoff thinks he is becoming faster and smarter, the only thing hampering him being the trailing of strapping tape and pain-killers. "It's quite sad in some ways that I feel I'm getting better as a bowler," he said. "It's just unfortunate I'm having to do what I'm doing with where the body's standing up. I'm learning a bit more about bowling and how to bowl.

"My length is naturally probably a little bit shorter and aggressive. Once you get the batters back, probably the full-length ball is a little bit more threatening. I've got an understanding of what to do, I'm going to have to apply that in the next three games."

He was talking less than an hour after the match but already his name was taped to the bowling honour board, his five wickets earning a spot six years after he made it on the batting list for a century against South Africa. That was "nice", he said, but winning the Ashes means much more. A second grabbing of the tiny urn will be worth a retirement full of limping.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Santanu on July 22, 2009, 23:22 GMT

    Australia lost the test in the first inning itself and in the battle of first innings, England's heroes were Strauss with the bat and Anderson with the ball. Anyone of these two should have been the man of the match. Filntoff shined when Australia was chasing 522. Any team can defend 521 and win if there is enough time left. This time Flintoff has done it for England, but it could have been anybody. No heroics is needed to win with a lead of 521. So, what is the big deal?

  • Ben on July 22, 2009, 13:41 GMT

    iamabbas: you're missing the point of it. I'm Australian. Yes, he doesn't have great averages or stats. But his presence makes him a great player. He lifts England to another level and inspires them, and when bowling at his best, is as good if not better than anyone in world cricket. I agree with Tangles though, Strauss was very hard done by with the MOTM award.

  • Abbas on July 22, 2009, 4:53 GMT

    Whats the big deal about this guy? He may be England's best player right now but he is definitely not even close to the best in the world. His averages in Tests are mediocre. There are plenty of players with those averages. When will he English learn that the world does not revolve around their star players.

  • Rob on July 22, 2009, 3:06 GMT

    Freddie gets a couple of tail enders and a wicketkeeper out on the final morning and he's gods gift. I think Strauss was pretty hard done by not getting man of the match with 190 odd runs.

  • Narayanan on July 21, 2009, 20:22 GMT

    Well Done Freddie and England for winning the test in a convincing manner, which was missing before. To some of the australian fans, I would like to say that please don't forget that in Australia when they play, they play with 13 players or 14 if u include the third umpire. Michael Slater against India was not given not out when he was runout by a mile. He continued playing and scored a century. The same Michael Slater argued with our Indian umpire Venkaraghavan for not allowing a catch taken by him Rahul Dravid. Pietersen was given out LBW for a delivery going over the stumps in Gabba in 2006 ashes, Andrew strauss was very unlucky to be given out caught at shortleg of shane warne in famous Adelaide test. Like this many circumstances can be quoted by cricket fans. Don't also forget the infamous sydney test against India when Australia showed all the unsporting behaviour. Please don't find umpiring faults when u r not winning ans praising umpires when u were tormenting the opposition.

  • Him on July 21, 2009, 19:17 GMT

    Flintoff's place in cricket's pantheon is a tricky proposition. There is no question he is an icon who inspires his countrymen and his team. For whole-hearted effort, he is second to none. Then on his day, his high pace, bounce and accuracy can trouble any batsman in the world. Also, as Boycott has mentioned often, no one has really been able to get after him over the years. He keeps the batter under pressure, which really helps his bowling mate at the other end. Finally, he is someone who has truly played Test cricket in good spirit. (A hugely pleasant aspect...esp for a fast bowler!)

    But sadly, devastating performances like in this match have been few and far between, which has meant that a Chris Cairns (another super talent) has better batting and bowling averages, with far more fifers. So while Flintoff had the talent and the heart to be an unquestionable great, perhaps his misfortune with injuries coupled with his natural shorter length have denied him that.

  • Vivek on July 21, 2009, 16:41 GMT

    I think that Flintoff is definitely one of the the top fast bowlers today, but rating him besides Akram, Walsh, and Ambrose would be overrating him a bit. Nevertheless Flintoff is a class bowlers who has terrorized batsman.

  • saurav on July 21, 2009, 16:19 GMT

    @anyone who was thought I was comparing him to Akram, I was just saying since Akram, I haven't seen a better bowler than Flintoff at his best. That is by no means comparing him to Akram.

  • Muhammed Umer on July 21, 2009, 15:55 GMT

    Flintoff is an amazing bowler. he can bowl aggressively and accurately all at the same time and do it for long spells if need be. he clicks, england wins the ashes, he doesnt, they have problems. other players feed of him, take the example of graeme swann, his body language was positive cause he was drawing on flintoff's positive energy. but england need to re assess their fast bowling attack cause anderson and broad will not win them the ashes, let alone the next test match. anderson bolwed well in the first innings but he does not do that consistently and when needed and anyways his first innings performance was not all that great either.

  • Raghav on July 21, 2009, 14:13 GMT

    freddie deserved to win this mathch for tengland at lords.he is a great allrounder and the cricketing world will miss him.

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