December 06, 1977, Preston, Lancashire
Right hand Bat
Right arm Fast medium
Ribbleton Hall High school
Future generations might look at Andrew Flintoff's career figures and wonder what all the fuss was about. In Tests he averaged 31 with bat and 32 with ball. For all the talk of his fearsome fast bowling, there were only three five-fors among his 226 wickets. His one-day figures were good without being outstanding, and his Lancashire ones nothing special. But what the stats don't show is his presence, and the uplifting effect Flintoff at his finest had on his team-mates and crowds. The game treasures few things more than an all-action allrounder: Flintoff became one of English cricket's iconic figures and his presence helped to gain the game popularity in the country at the start of the 21st century.
"Freddie" was selected for England in 1998 as much on promise as performance, and underperformed at first, not helped by problems with weight and attitude. Juggernauting in and bowling at 90mph was inevitably a strain: his knees and ankles took multiple poundings from pitches and surgeons' scalpels.
His bowling was always wholehearted and occasionally magnificent, when he probed away outside off with a hint of reverse swing at high pace. As a batter, he was always correct and powerful, if sometimes hesitant against quality spin.
It wasn't until the New Zealand tour early in 2002 that he finally scored a Test century or took more than four wickets in a match. He looked established at last - but then another injury kept him out of the 2002-03 Ashes, although he was fit enough for the World Cup that followed in South Africa, where he was the most economical bowler on view.
That kicked off Flintoff's golden period - three home seasons when he was at his princely peak. In 2004 he bowled at his fastest - and also smacked a rollicking Test-best 167 against West Indies at Edgbaston, when one of his seven sixes was memorably dropped by his father in the stands. And then there was the crowning glory of 2005, when he bestrode the Ashes series and was undoubtedly the leading cricketer in the world. The photograph of him consoling Brett Lee after England narrowly beat Australia at Edgbaston became the image that captured one of the great Test series.
After that, Flintoff's body started rebelling. To make matters worse he was horribly miscast as captain in Australia in 2006-07, sometimes looking forlorn as his team sank to a 5-0 whitewash. And England's 2007 World Cup campaign will be best remembered for Flintoff's embarrassing tumble from a pedalo after a late-night drinking session.
He coaxed one last big effort out of his creaking joints in 2009, demolishing the Aussies at Lord's before virtually ensuring the return of the urn with the pinpoint run out of Ricky Ponting at The Oval. In September 2010 came the increasingly inevitable announcement that the body couldn't take it. One of cricket's nearly-greats had gone.
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Debut/Last Matches of Andrew Flintoff
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