I read with sadness the announcment yesterday that Andrew Flintoff is retiring from cricket due to losing his ongoing battle with injury. ‘Freddie’ was a world class talent, a larger than life character, and a great advert for English Cricket.
True, he did have his run-in’s with authority, and the odd fall from grace such as the ‘pedalo’ incident during the World Cup in the Caribbean. But most people touched with genius also have a few flaws somewhere, and his achievements on the pitch and his fierce competitive streak surely outweighed the occasional error of judgement.
Fred is one of an elite band of English cricketers to have registered two Ashes victories over Australia, no mean feat.The second series victory must have been even more special after the 5-0 series whitewash inflicted by the Old Enemy in the previous series down under, a series where he stood in as captain for the injured Michael Vaughan.
The highlights of his career are many – The Ashes series of 2005, his 5 wicket haul at Lords against the Aussies in 2009 when he was clearly injured but his spirit would not let him stop, the caring side when he stopped to console a distraught Brett Lee when the player was in pieces at his side’s defeat by England – A lesser man would not have noticed whilst enjoying the cheers of the home crowd.
Strangely enough, my own personal favourite moment and the one that is etched in my memory is not one of his duels with the Aussies, but a much more downplayed series against South Africa in 2003. England were staring defeat in the face at Lord’s when Flintoff came out to bat. Playing with carefree abandon, Fred smashed 142 off of 112 balls, with 5 sixes and 18 fours. One over in particular was stunning, facing the immensely talented fast bowler Makhaya Ntini. The first two balls that came down were swatted in to the pavilion for huge sixes, followed by two more boundaries. On the final ball of the over, Freddie lined up to hit a huge six, but instead shattered his bat as he struck the ball! Ntini, having been so savagely treated, broke in to a huge smile and raised his arms in mock triumph, laughing.
Truly a special memory of a special player – So long Fred, and thanks for the memories…