Andrew Flintoff has retired from cricket. Nobody could say it was a surprise, as the injuries kept stacking up, and returns were looking more and more unlikely. Fred has been a fantastic performer for England over the past decade, and while some are quick to mock his subsequent career as a celebrity, it's important that nobody underestimates Flintoff's importance to English cricket, and what he's given to cricket in general.
Flintoff's over to Langer and Ponting at Edgbaston in 2005 was surely his highlight - and indeed was one of the best overs ever bowled. With every ball on the spot, he asked questions of two of the world's top batsmen each delivery, before removing both of them. While history remembers Hoggard's hat-trick at Barbados, it was Flintoff who took a five-for in the first innings. As both a renowned death bowler in limited overs, and as a strike bowler in tests, Flintoff was England's talisman with the ball, and by the end of his career was a better bowler than batsman (not bad for a supposed batsman who could bowl a bit). Often tipping above 90mph, as well as generating some swing, Flintoff was a deadly bowler to face. Highlights have to be the continued high performance in the 2005 Ashes, bowling to Jacques Kallis in 2008 at Edgbaston, as well as the scintillating spell on the final morning at Lord's in 2009 to finish off the Aussies and pick up an all-too-rare 5 wicket haul.
While many will remember his hundred at Trent Bridge in 2005, his best innings was probably against the West Indies at Edgbaston, where he brutally marmalised the Windie attack to pick up 167. And (attention Flintoff cliche fans) he even picked out his dad in the crowd with one massive six! (Who dropped it.) Flintoff owned all the shots, and while his brute strength meant that they often cleared the rope, people shouldn't forget the natural batsman Flintoff's excellent timing. He didn't just belt teams around; a patient 95 against South Africa at the Oval was Flintoff at his best, mixing some big hitting with some delicate strokes.
Flintoff was long known as one of the best slippers in the business, and his bucket-hands meant very few chances were spilled. Never the most mobile or agile, Flintoff's seminal moment in the field was running out Ricky Ponting at the Oval in 2009. (You knew it was coming!)
Yes, Fred may have been captain for the lowest point of English cricket, but he was also skipper for a test victory in India, as well as overseeing a ODI series victory out in Australia. But to be fair, he wasn't a great captain. Sorry Fred.
Whenever Flintoff either came on to bowl or came out to bat, the crowd became frenzied, and expectations were raised. Every interview with players who played with Fred will speak of how much belief he gave them when they were playing alongside him, and his simply being there inspired so many great victories. When Flintoff played well, oftentimes England won, and that was due to everyone raising their game to match the feats of Fred. Conversely, opposition batsmen who had been scoring freely went into their shells once the announcer called out "Andrew Flintoff", simply because the man had such an aura surrounding him.
Brett Lee at Edgbaston. Nuff said.
Sense of Fun
Everyone who played with Fred said what great fun he was in the dressing room, whether that was singing to Rocket Man or Ring of Fire, or hitting the bar (heavily) after the game. Unsurprisingly, the general public's main knowledge of Fred is of his red bleary eyes on top of the bus after winning the Ashes, confessing that he hadn't been to bed that night. Also included is the famous "mind the pavilion windows, Tino" sledge which bought the wicket of Tino Best in 2004. Sure, he could take it to far at times (Fredalo, anyone?) but what a bloke he must have been to play alongside.
After the 2005 Ashes, cricket became back page news, and was picked up by so many new fans nationwide. Much of that was due to Flintoffmania, a by-product of Ashes Fever, and his high level of performance, combined with his character meant that cricket was brought into the mainstream. While celebrity (whether unwanted or not) followed for Flintoff, he played a huge part in bringing cricket to a new generation of fans (myself included).
Andrew Flintoff may now have left cricket, but he leaves a massive hole in the game. He brought so much to the game, and served it so well, and it's only right that he is remembered as a true legend of the sport.
Oh how we love!
Your gorgeous wife
Your ample girth
Your chain smoking
Your beer drinking
Your slip catching
Your seam bowling
Your six hitting
Our all round man
Freddie Freddie Flintoff
Freddie Freddie Flintoff
Well played, Super Fred.