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Oval and out

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Robbo Robson | 11:20 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

Eee, what to say? What to say?

I've been busy trying to find chippy Aussies since 6.00pm yesterday but blow me if there aren't any in the immediate vicinity of the Blue Bell, save the gorgeous barmaid Carly, who has been as resolute as Hussey in not taking any bait.

To be fair, there wasn't much whine in the Strine from Ricky Ponting. In a way the bloke has been the Man of the Series. The boos, the bad calls, the ball-in-the-face and then that run out and he still puckered up that odd little plasticine face of his into a mask of something approaching dignified greatness.

There was a little clump of numpties giving him the bird but the vast majority of us recognise a top bloke when we see him and Punter's right to take his perch alongside Warney now.

He was so composed in the interview for a moment I felt sorry for the bloke. But what a brilliant day it was! I woke up to the stench of delirium and dodgy Aussie sparkly wine on me togs. I'm as happy as a Burnley fan.

Early doors and it was the perfect start but then when Ponting and Hussey got their heads down I got into pacing mode. It's funny - if I'm watching a tight game of footy I just grip my pint harder and pray - but if it's cricket I have to get out my seat and pace about like an anxious fidgety hen.

I must have done as far as that tiny Irish sparrow of a woman of the World Champs walk (What is the point of the Walk any road? Why race at a pace that's less fast than you could go if you ran?)

Then came the great moment - Flintoff's moment. The moment when Fred became the Pratt of the 2009 Ashes. He stooped low, somehow flexing the damaged knee enough, and whanged it into the stumps like he was skimming a stone across a lake (I bet Fred's a good skimmer. I managed an eleven once on a beach in Kent. If Flintoff tried that they'd be ducking in Calais.)

Then there was the gesture, arms outstretched like he was on a vertical sun-lounger. Of course Flintoff had to have his impact somewhere - it was as appropriate as the sponsor on Paul Hart's shirt ('Jobsite' - reckon he'll be needing that soon, don't you?)

Andrew Flintoff

After the potty dismissal of Clarke, which had more ricochets in it than a Lampard thirty-yarder, and North's top stumping by Prior there followed another great bout of pacing by yours truly during Haddin's innings. My antsiness wasn't helped one bit by a pub debate about whether Flintoff was great or just dead good.

I was having none of it. People who only look at record books to find out whether a sportsman did anything much need to remind themselves not of the numbers but of the moments.

I saw Fred's 167 at Edgbaston v the Windies. The opposition were rank but he clonked the ball about the place like a headmaster clipping some idle schoolboys about the ears. Brilliant. And there's that thundering bowling, not least at Lord's this year.

Fact is, he did that thing that very few players ever get to do. He emptied the beer-tents. The amount of times I've seen a local office worker extend a lunch break cos Fred had the bat or ball in his hand. Not sure you'd get that second pint in if, say, Collingwood or Clarke was in.

The point is not that Flintoff is the best cricketer we've ever had - he's not - but he's not one you forget too easily. Sport needs its plodders, its quiet accumulators of runs or caps or goals or titles. But you need your Freds even more.

So you doubters can tot up all the figures you like but if sport was all about accountancy you'd never watch any of it, would you?

Having said that, without the quiet accumulator that is Andrew Strauss, England and Freddie wouldn't be celebrating anything. His batting has been downright brilliant and his captaincy has been top-notch too. To get such a top performance from a side that was so pants at Headingley was pretty remarkable and a big V-sign to them twerps who were touting Ramps and Key for a recall. Ahem. That's me then.

The wife's put the DVD on the Christmas list, I'm pleased to say. It's been a wonderful series. A bit schizoid but brilliant. And the Aussies would still hold them Ashes if they'd only bowled out Monty Panesar in Cardiff, something that most of us could have done. And that, at the end of the day, is HILARIOUS!

So no open-top bus this year. No street parade. No niddled chinking of glasses with the PM. No pie-eyed men-mountains tottering like wounded Godzillas and slurring through the longest post-match party celebration in recent history. Just a thanks to the fates and a hope that a Fredless England can do it over there in 2010-11.

Farewell, Mr Flintoff. As Strauss said - you'll be missed.


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