Andrew Flintoff has admitted that a single hour of madness on the final morning at Adelaide cost his side a share of the second Test. Speaking to the press after Australia's extraordinary six-wicket victory, a shell-shocked Flintoff said he had been taken aback by the reversal of England's fortunes, after they had fought so hard for the first four days of the match.
"I am a bit shocked to be honest," he said. "When we turned up today, the game wasn't in the bag or drawn by any means, but we were confident of doing so. After the way we batted in the first innings, we're bitterly, bitterly disappointed to be walking off tonight having been beaten. But it just goes to show, in Test cricket one bad hour can cost you the game.
"There's not too many things you can say at this moment in time," he added. "I just walked off the field to be honest. The lads are disappointed. They are a proud team and they want to do well in this series. But we've got to be big enough now to bounce back and face what's in front of us."
England now need to win two of the last three Tests, and avoid defeat in the other, if they are to retain the Ashes that they won so thrillingly in England last summer. "It's a big challenge for us now, and so we can't mope around too much," said Flintoff. "It's going to hurt this game, but we've got just over a week until the next one. Given the way I'm feeling and the lads are feeling, I don't want to feel like this again, so that's a big incentive for us."
"For four days we played some fantastic cricket," he continued, "but for an hour this morning the game got away from us. Shane Warne bowled great and Brett Lee reversed it both ways and asked tough questions of the batsmen, and it put us on the back foot."
Flintoff denied that panic had set in during that crazy hour, which included the crass run-out of Ian Bell. But he did admit that the loss of four wickets for eight runs had killed any semblance of English momentum. "That's what cost us," he said. "Paul Collingwood had to get his head down and battle and grit. He was working and working and working, and runs were hard to come by at that stage. Losing wickets is always going to dry up the runs."
When England were denied victory in their run-chase against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo ten years ago, there was plenty of negative bowling on display, with wide deliveries down the leg side and unreachable bouncers. But such tactics never crossed Flintoff's mind as the match slipped out of his grasp. "We saw from the way they bowled, if you hit a length it was tough to score. [Negative tactics] weren't really an option on that wicket. It was too slow to start chucking it outside off stump."
Flintoff revealed that England had feared the use of the new ball, because of the extra speed with which it came off the bat. "It was like damage limitation," he said. "It was coming on to the bat better and was easier to score, so we were trying not only to take wickets but keep the runs down. When it got softer and there was a chance of reverse swing, we hoped to peg them back and apply pressure, but it just got away from us."
And Flintoff, who bowled heroically in a lost cause, taking two of the four wickets to fall, revealed that his troublesome ankle had not been a hindrance in Australia's run-chase. "There was a little bit of discomfort, and maybe I was a little naïve to think I'd get off scot-free [without any pain], but I'm not bothered. It's not the ankle that's hurting at the moment."