No. 50 November 29, 2009

Flintoff rocks Australia

The old faithful cranks it up one last time

Lord's, 20 July 2009

When Andrew Flintoff chose the eve of the second Ashes Test, at Lord's, to announce his impending retirement from Test cricket, it was feared such a statement would detract from the forthcoming battle. Not in the slightest.

With all vestiges of reticence banished from Flintoff's mind, he was free to unleash himself once again, with not a jot of concern for the creaking knee that had hastened his decision. Sure enough, his favourite foes - Australia - suffered the consequences of his renewed recklessness.

Lord's was Australia's home from home in Ashes cricket. Not since 1934 had they been defeated at the venue, but by the fifth and final day their record was under siege. A fearful first innings had left them needing a world-record 522 for victory, but true to form they had rallied to 313 for 5, and it was England who slept fitfully.

Mind you, some slept more fitfully than others. As a rule, Flintoff never struggled to get enough zeds, and when he awoke refreshed and excitable on that memorable final morning, he sensed an opportunity to carve a niche in history. With a Botham-esque confidence, he duly informed his captain, Andrew Strauss, that he would be opening the bowling, and that the Pavilion End would be his domain until such time as the match had been wrapped up.

Such selfishness had been notably absent from Flintoff's mentality throughout much of his 11-year career. Often he was as happy for others to claim the glory, and a grand total of two five-wicket hauls was scant reward for the extent of his endeavours. This time, however, no one would stand in the way of his glory, Englishman or Aussie alike.

With a surging, crunching crescendo of arms and legs, Flintoff powered to the crease for 10 overs off the reel. It was double his recommended allowance per spell, but with the adrenaline coursing through his veins, his pace scarcely diminished from first ball to last. Brad Haddin edged to slip fourth ball, to end the only stand that truly threatened an upset, before Nathan Hauritz and Peter Siddle were extracted by unplayable inswingers. And as Flintoff dropped to his knees to milk the Kodak moment, the England staff in the dressing room prepared to tape a new honour to the board.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo