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Flintoff denied century that means so much

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Oliver Brett | 19:57 UK time, Sunday, 2 August 2009

Andrew Flintoff's Test career is running on vapours. When he bats, running between the wickets is a struggle. Every ball he bowls causes him pain, and when a team-mate gets a wicket he looks too exhausted to join in their celebrations.

So it would have been a wonderful thing for England's most passionate cricket supporters - the ones who turn up in their thousands at Edgbaston are exactly that - to see their hero sign off his Test career at the Birmingham ground with his sixth Test century.

Alas, it was not to be. But you can rest assured that 21,000 people will not forget the controlled aggression with which Freddie tormented Australia's bowlers on Sunday en route to a wonderful 74, an innings which contained 10 commanding fours and a six that was no more than an elegantly lofted flick over mid-on.

Andrew Flintoff

It has been a source of irritation for Flintoff's detractors that he has not achieved more with the bat through the course of his career. His Test average has hovered in the low 30s as a result of some overly ambitious shots early in his career - and a sometimes fruitless search for form when injuries have interrupted his latter appearances.

For somebody who always wanted to be considered a batsman first and a bowler second, it must have been a bit of a kick in the pants for him to have to bat at seven, behind Matt Prior, in this series - even if he protested otherwise before the first Test.

Edgbaston has been the scene of some fine deeds by Flintoff. For a man who revels in the roar of the crowd, it was always likely to be that way. In 2004, he struck his best score in Tests here, a particularly brutal 167, featuring seven sixes, against West Indies.

He took 4-89 in an innings on this ground against a terrific South African batting line-up last summer.

And in the 2005 Ashes he was man of the match at Edgbaston, taking seven wickets in all, plus making two wonderful half-centuries, the second of which could be regarded as the turning-point of the series.

This time, his innings centred on front-foot drives backed up by strong footwork. There was nothing approaching a mindless thrash and he gave no chances. In between the pretty shots, there was an array of solid defensive blocks that would have interested anyone compiling a coaching manual.

But the small element of good fortune he needed to pick up what would have been only his second century in all cricket since the Trent Bridge Test of 2005 went missing. The first ball from Nathan Hauritz which even remotely troubled him caught his gloves as he pulled his bat out of the way, and a catch lobbed up to slip.

Whatever may happen for Flintoff in his life as a non-Test player - Indian Premier League, another autobiography, occasional turns in England's one-day side - he is blocking out his future until the last ball is bowled at The Oval in this, his final Test series.

His wife Rachael was at Edgbaston on Sunday, so too his three children, the eldest of whom Holly - nearly five - may one day bank this summer as the earliest of her memories.

They had dinner in a Thai restaurant on Saturday, but went back to the hotel promptly at 7.30pm - not so much because the kids needed their bed but because Flintoff did. That's how much this series means to him.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    was at edgbaston today and the atmosphere was intense and every run was met with an enormous roar especially when flintoff was pummelling the aussies his sheer aggression and class made me very proud to be be british today.

  • Comment number 2.

    Was there today too. It was a poor first hour for England but Prior, and Freddie in particular, brought the game to life. Totally agree with your analysis Oliver, the way he was seeing the ball (and importantly choosing his shots) it looked like Flintoff was a dead cert for a ton. But like Ponting later on the turn surprised him.

    A great days cricket all in all and Swanny's ball to get Ponting was, as the Aussies would say, a beaut!

  • Comment number 3.

    He really is a class act. If anyone deserves plaudits in any sport it really is this man. He's just a genuine bloke, loves a beer and a "bit" of a mess around. Although he has his critics, most of the things there critical of is partly why the british public have taken so well to him.
    On top of all of that, hes a top cricketer :)

  • Comment number 4.


    Edgbaston 2009 I was there.

    Fred was destined to be top scorer today and at times there were glimpses of his past fantastic strokes and glorious drives in this test arena..

    Yet I am witnessing the end of a great test career every runand by God did he run you could see he was hurting his stance was all wrong , the weaknesses and ravages in his body are clear to see from his shuttling running between the wickets.

    Yet this weaker, not 100% old lion is feared by the opposition .and the ecstatic celebrations when they eventually got him out by a gloved shot revealed all.

    One could tell this is truly the beginning of the pantomime season. as later Ponting was booed all the way to the creaseand cheered all the way back on his early exit

    But Freds bowling is now his weakest link. Freds bowling through Edgbastons fading twilight tonight was a brave sight to see but ones head (and Strausss) must say that tomorrow if it is humid and cloudy we have to have Jimmy and Graham on first strike

    I am staggered to now realise that the song I can now hear from the Ozzie dressing room is no longer Langer or Hayden singing the Southern Cross .but Sergeant Jones of dads army fame singing Dont panic! Dont Panic !

  • Comment number 5.

    Swann's ball to get Ponting was one of the best balls ive seen in a while, brilliant over from Swann. Early wickets are the key, providing they don't leave it too late a 150 run chase should be manageable for england providing we can restrict them to that amount

  • Comment number 6.

    Vintage Flintoff today. Great batting.

    But as at Lords it was Prior who swung the momentum towards England. He upped the tempo, for Flintoff and Broad to follow and put in England in a position to win, when at the beginning of the day the draw looked nailed-on.

    How refreshing to see England go all out for a win, when all they need is draws to win the series.

    It was also great to see some classic sledging between Johnson and Swann/Broad.

    Swann's dismassal of Ponting deserves a mention and will go down in history like Vaughan getting Tendulkar or Giles getting Lara.

    http://sportingchameleon.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 7.

    Going crazy here! Have spent since 5:00 on the Edgbaston Web Site trying to get tickets. It took 4 hours to get to the front of the queue and then the page crashed.... To say I'm frustrated is a significant understatement. I live 3 hours away and am desperate to take my son & nephew tomorrow but it doesn't look good. There are times when I really hate technology! Anyone else suffering the same problems?

  • Comment number 8.

    i was also at Edgbaston today, what a day !
    I would just like to say to the people of Brum, thanks. A magnigicent crowd, the best experience I have ever had at a cricket ground. They taunted the (small) Oz contingent, and it was often extremely funny.
    I was sat next to 20+ storm troopers, and had a pee alongside the Queen and Tony Blair - classic and witnessed a standoff between Village People, 10 Where's Wally's and 50 Elvis's.
    Had a brilliant day, a belly full of beer, and now feel like having a sickie tomorrow !

  • Comment number 9.

    #4 - "Freds bowling is now his weakest link"

    That statement is odd and may come back to haunt you. Sure, he is not a swing bowler, but if we need a breakthrough tomorrow, he will probably be the man...

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm sick of all this, Flintoff this, hero that; you'd think he was playing on a wheelchair having just returned from war with two amputated legs, and then scored 1000 runs.

    Can we all just shut up at lease until the test is done?

  • Comment number 11.

    You have just got to love this guy

  • Comment number 12.

    woldovski . . .

    don't you mean 'at least'?

    Were you even there today? If so, you would understand the way the whole place transformed as soon as Freddy came to bat. It was amazing. He was amazing. The end.

  • Comment number 13.

    Flintoff man of the series?

  • Comment number 14.

    12

    Well if we're going to get picky then at leas'T' get my alias right...

    The English media (and the BBC in particular) seems to be hell-bent on perpetuating the hero/scapegoat mentality; there is always exactly ONE person who is responsible for victory/defeat, and most times neither is justified. And it's all the more infuriating this time since, a) the math has not been won yet, and b) it's not like he's done anything special. It's a TEAM effort. The TEAM has to be stressed in these silly aricles, not the individual.

    Still, if there was a 'hero' for England today, surely it must be Ricky Ponting for giving Super-Fred a start by persisting with Watson's terrifying bowling, which of course Flintoff expertly maneuvered for his big score.

    Why do we insist on ignoring the facts?

  • Comment number 15.

    Because people love Heroes and golly me Flintoff is one.

    Not sure he'd be that good at an ashes times tables competition though

  • Comment number 16.

    Just spent 2 and a half fruitless hours on the Edgbaston website trying to get a ticket for the final day - now 1.50 am - worst server (tech speak) and service in the world. Now too tired to drive over from N Wales anyway. In fact, will probably struggle to get up for the start. C'mon England!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Admonishes one Waldovski:

    "I'm sick of all this, Flintoff this, hero that;...

    Can we all just shut up at lease until the test is done?"


    It would appear that this chap is having a bad hair day...or did someone kick his poodle? Lighten up, fella...life's too short to be so $%^& miserable!

    The man is fading into the sunset, leave him alone!

  • Comment number 18.

    "The man is fading into the sunset"

    Yep. Time is running out to make a Botham out of him, but the 'journalists' are trying their hardest nevertheless.

  • Comment number 19.

    I wasn't at Edgbaston for the simple reason that I'm in Australia for four years. Still, it's not all bad, the cricket's free-to-air so I went to bed about 5.00 a.m. today! Fantastic knock by Fred, he's always hidden a class batsman under his slogging. What I want to know is why he doesn't just forget bowling? It's that that is destroying his body; building a great batting career could keep him going for four or five years as a Test player. He would then move up the order and get an average in the 50s, which is where he should be. Now, a word about Broad. He showed a lot of guts and flair in that innings so I'll shut up about him in future. Perhaps he too should be persuaded to concentrate on batting? Finally, Bopara; he's certainly not a Test number three, and after getting out to that shot it seems he's so lacking in basic technique that he shouldn't be there at all. Any ideas?

  • Comment number 20.

    Flintoff is no Botham but you have to admire his determination and his ability to brighten up a day's play by thumping a few balls to the boundary. He doesn't have the natural ability of Sir Ian but he has worked incredibly hard at his game to now be one of the most feared pacemen in world cricket. He will be greatly missed on and off the field and who would bet against him scoring a hundred or taking a ten-wicket haul before the series is complete?
    Broad played superbly again today and, unlike many, I think he should continue his run in the team. He has a great attitude and always wants to be involved. Good to see him getting under Johnson's skin together with the perrenial irritant Swann.

  • Comment number 21.

    It could be that the rain having taken away nearly two playing days, could keep away today. England may yet be rewarded for its bold batting display yesterday and achieve an unexpected win. Who can say Swann will not get a load of wickets today, with Onions getting some crumbs.
    Its an altogether different England from the miserable one we had a mere 6 months ago. What a restraint-free batting from its now formidable tail!
    The two putative all rounders in the team contributed only with the bat, but what a magnificent contribution to swell the kitty! I think critics should now get off Bopara's tail too and let him concentrate on the tough assignment.
    The ball is rolling for England and it is just within the pale of the possible that Oz may not be able to emulate the great English escape at Cardiff.
    If you are dreaming, dream big. 2-0 outa edgbaston may be a bit too much of a fancy but it will make England unbeatable this Ashes.

  • Comment number 22.

    I recall a conversation that I had with an outspoken ex-international cricketer in 1999 during the World Cup when he scornfully rejected early forecasts that Flintoff was to be the next Botham.

    Ten years on, as his career draws to a close it is evident that Fred will not go down in history as Beefy II. But there is no denying that he made his own mark. The highs may have been sporadic and too few and far between to some (read many). But, by golly, wasnt it fun when it came?!?

    Keep chugging, Fred I!

  • Comment number 23.

    Was i the only person listening to Sky yesterday, that picked up the roar of "YES" from Nasser Hussain, when Ian Bell was given out, LBW?
    What sort of English Supporter (and X-Captain) could take such delight in seeing another home player, getting out?
    I know Hussain doesn't like Bell, but to cheer in that manner is totally unacceptable.
    Hussain deserves to be taken to task for such "Loutish" and "Unsportsmanlike" behaviour.

  • Comment number 24.

    As someone who had a ticket for the washed out Saturday, it is galling to know that this was the days cricket that I should have seen!
    Even worse, I had to endure a pre arranged family day out and missed the entire days play.
    I'm not leaving my telly today!

  • Comment number 25.

    Feel nervous for the boys. It's gonna be a tense morning. Come on England!

  • Comment number 26.

    I actually played in the same team as Freddie in a charity pro-am in the 90's. Even back then i could tell that this guy was going to be popular! He just had that effervescent personality that all likeable people had. He was just fun to be around as he was never down about anything.

    And i think that's why the british public love him. Too many sports stars these days are like robots. They sleep when they're told to, drink what they're told to, eat what they're told to. Those guys have no personality and you can't relate to them. Freddie just does what he wants, and he is to be admired for that. He likes to go out for a couple of beers, he likes to have a curry, and he's passionate about what he does. He's just a normal guy! And that's why everyone can relate to him and why everyone likes him. He's not a puppet of the press.

    Add in to the mix the fact that he has a lorry load of talent then you've got a national treasure. A good lad, who worked hard at his game, and came good. I fully admit that he hasn't reached the heights that people thought he would, but you can't blame him too much. Being labelled "The Next Botham" is a pretty large tag to deal with! He reminds me a lot of Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash. 2 more superbly talented players who never really got going at test level and only had a few flashes of brilliance here and there. Maybe that's doing Freddie a bit of a dis-service, though, as he's usually been good at one discipline in a game. If his bowling has suffered, then his batting has come good. If his batting has suffered, then his bowling has come good.

    But whatever you think of the man, he's certainly entertaining! And that's how sport should be.

  • Comment number 27.

    snowJacuzzi007
    A good and touching write about a truly talented and uncomplicated sportsman.

  • Comment number 28.

    Olly I can't believe it took you until you were twelve to realise you would never play for England. Anyway, great article - just goes to show that statistics never tell the story in cricket. Still, re-hashing statistics is a always a lot easier than intelligent analysis.

  • Comment number 29.

    I was gutted not to see him get his century yesterday. In the series he's proved his greatness with the ball at Lords so it would be brilliant if he could have done it with the bat. I mean it's not bad ending the series with a 5-for and a century to boot. I hope he gets it.

    http://jumpersforgoalposts1212.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 30.

    as the cricket is heading for a draw, did anybody notice that Geoff Boycott said : quote - " i wouldn't bowl onions" ?? why not ? because he won't get shallots of wickets ?? hehe

  • Comment number 31.

    second thoughts, best not to bowl onions as it will all end in tears !

  • Comment number 32.

    Now I'm no fan of Flintoff and I'm on record as saying that, but even his supporters must be able to see now that he's finally given in to his own cult of personality.
    Everything he has done in these last two tests has had two sides to it. The 5-92 and the 74, undoubtedly brilliant. The celebrations, the sudden sledging thats never been part of his game before - awful to watch. He now sees himself as the only important player in the team. He is playing up to the crowd to boost his post cricket coffers and to create, retrospectively, a myth of the great warrior.
    He has been a solid servant over 10 years and had 2 years of brilliance but the time has come for Andrew Strauss to take him to one side and tell him that enough is enough. He is part of a team and Strauss needs to make that clear once more.
    Oh and one final thing. Wanting to get smashed every night does not make him a good bloke!!

  • Comment number 33.

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  • Comment number 34.

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  • Comment number 35.

    Shame the rain took so much time out of the match (nevermind the 11.5overs per hour yesterday from the guardians of the 'Spirit of the Game' ;o) ), still 1-0 up with 2 to play and the Aussies yet to take 20 wickets in a match. Looking good.

  • Comment number 36.

    If Flintoff was not so worried about having to run between the wickets he might have got an 100.

  • Comment number 37.

    flintoff must be rested for headingley.
    we are over using him which could affect his one day career if not stopped.
    england selectors and coaching staff MUST see that before its too late.

  • Comment number 38.

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