Flintoff: Pride means more than any cup or cheque
Andrew Flintoff, understandably, was over the moon with his team's three-wicket win against West Indies at Ahmedabad, giving England something to take home from the Champions Trophy. "I am very, very pleased. I think it is fair to say in the first two games, we didn't perform as we can, and we have said that," said Flintoff. "Going into this game, it was an important game for the team, an important part of our development as a team. We went into it, treating it as a big game. We were playing the West Indies, the form side. We went out there, we started well and then you know Kevin at the end, we wanted someone to take responsibility and win a game for us, and Kevin did that with class."
Having already been knocked out of the tournament, Flintoff had earlier said that his team was playing for pride, and it certainly showed on the day. "We were playing for pride, and pride is a huge thing. It is bigger than any cup and worth more than any cheque to play for your pride," said Flintoff. "The team's pride and personal pride was at stake and we went out there and we played with pride.
"It was a good wicket, the West Indies started well and got 272. I think at one stage we were expecting 300," said Flintoff. "Going in second afterwards, there was a quiet confidence within the camp. They went out there believing we could get that target and we got it well in the end."
Brian Lara agreed that his team were a few runs short and that they should have got to 300. "It's something we'll talk about when we meet," he said. "We need to maximise every part of our game. The guys are aware that we were 10-15 runs short of where we should have been. That said, got 272, we could have defended that, it's one of the highest scores of the tournament."
But Lara believed that it was in the early part of their bowling that they let the game get away. "In the first 15 overs, the way we bowled allowed England to score too many runs," he said. "They were scoring at more than a run-a-ball in a period where many wickets have been taken in this tournament. Even a couple of days ago Munaf Patel loomked threatening when he bowled early on. In the early part of the game our fast bowlers did not put the ball in the right areas and test the batsman."
At the same time, Lara said that his team had got plenty out of the match despite losing the match. "The fact that we got two centurions and a good total on the board means the guys are going to gain a lot of confidence," he said. "The likes of Bradshaw, one of our strike bowlers in ODIS, he's definitely going to comeback. If you have to have a hiccup this is a good time to have it. We're going to move on very positive. Even if we won today it's a do-or-die situation in the next game so we know what we have to do."
When they came into this match both captains had fitness concerns - Flintoff was bowling in a match for the first time since his ankle injury, and Lara was coming off back spasms. Flintoff bowled five overs in two spells, and said that his ankle had held up well. "I was not at full tilt, but 80 or 85 per cent, but I was pleased with it, to be honest. I was confident it would be fine," he said. "I had bowled in the nets and it has been fine all trip and for the past few weeks. So I was not surprised, but in some ways it is a little bit of relief as well that I have bowled in a game." For his part, Lara said that the back was slowly improving. "I'm Surviving. I'm not 100% but I'm getting through," he said. "Hopefully with a few days rest and treatment I'll be ready for the semifinals."
While Lara praised Pietersen for his knock, Flintoff could barely hold back when he spoke of the innings and the man. "He was fantastic. We wanted someone to bat through and win a game. When Kevin went in, we had a bit of a wobble. We lost two quick wickets - myself and Paul Collingwood," he said. "And then Kevin steadied the ship. He batted well with the lower-order batsmen. His class came through. He paced the innings fantastically well. He played as we know he can play. He is a fine, fine player and if he carries on playing like that, obviously the team is going to be stronger."
But when asked about the controversial catch that dismissed Michael Yardy - television replays showed that the ball might have hit the turf before Drayne Bravo got his hands around the ball - Flintoff was restrained. "Yards has had a bit of wrong luck on this trip," said Flintoff. "He had a couple of decisions that could have gone either way. You saw it on TV and I am sure everyone can draw their own conclusion."
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo