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Heroic Flintoff inspired 2005 Ashes triumph

Last updated on: July 16, 2009 

Heroic Flintoff inspired 2005 Ashes triumph

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Throughout the course of the glorious summer of 2005 Andrew Flintoff combined abundant talent, a strapping physique and whole-hearted exuberance to become the all-rounder England had craved for so long.

Flintoff dominated the Ashes series to such an extent that even the incomparable Shane Warne at his transcendent best could not prevent England reclaiming the Ashes after 16 bleak years.

Four years later after four ankle operations and a variety of shoulder, hip and knee injuries Flintoff has bowed to the inevitable and announced his retirement from Test cricket after the current Ashes series to concentrate on the one-day game.


Image: Andrew Flintoff
Photographs: Reuters
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Flintoff was invariably hostile in 2005

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Charging in with new or old ball, Flintoff was invariably hostile in 2005 and consistently confounded the Australian batsmen with late reverse swing.

To add to his 27 wickets, Flintoff batted with maturity and authority to score 402 runs at an average of 40.20.

For that series, at least, he was a member of that exalted company of all-rounders who could command a Test place as either batsman or bowler.

Success, though, came at a high price.

Flintoff, overweight and under-motivated at the start of his Test career, had trained himself to a peak and developed into a fine professional athlete.


Image: Andrew Flintoff
Photographs: Reuters
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The frightening pace he generated took a toll

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But the frightening pace he generated, depending on strenuous physical endeavour rather than rhythm, took a literally crippling toll.

Flintoff, 31, came of age in the English summer of 2003, when, by coincidence, Michael Vaughan took over as England captain.

The cerebral Vaughan and the physical Flintoff formed a combination as potent as Mike Brearley and Ian Botham a generation earlier as England assembled a team fit to challenge the Australians.

In 2005, Flintoff inspired the two-run win at Edgbaston which levelled the series.

He scored a maiden Test century at Trent Bridge and a marathon spell in the final Test at the Oval gathered him five wickets and seized control of a game heading in Australia's direction.


Image: Andrew Flintoff
Photographs: Reuters
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He captained in the next Ashes but...

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Flintoff and his team mates then embarked on the party to end all parties, culminating in a open-top bus parade through London.

He had become an English folk hero and fully justified comparisons with Botham, Imran Khan and Keith Miller, but the fall from such heady heights was swift.

Flintoff took over from the injured Vaughan as England captain in India and performed heroically as leader and player in a series-levelling win in Mumbai.

But he over-bowled himself trying for a win over Sri Lanka at Lord's and was out of action for four months.

He returned to captain England in Australia ahead of Andrew Strauss who had won a series against Pakistan in the meantime.

Australia won 5-0 and Flintoff was disciplined for excessive drinking.


Image: Andrew Flintoff
Photographs: Reuters
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When fit, he was England's most consistent

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On Vaughan's return he lost his spot as England vice-captain at the Caribbean World Cup after another drunken episode.

Flintoff, when fit, was still England's most consistent bowler but his batting fell away badly and the injury breaks become longer.

He pulled out of the Indian Premier League this year to have an operation on his right knee and missed a two-test series against West Indies and the Twenty20 World Cup.


Image: Andrew Flintoff
Photographs: Reuters
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Statistically, a decent but not great Test cricketer

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A fierce six-over spell in the drawn first Test in Cardiff last week briefly rocked the Australians but the injured knee troubled him again and on Wednesday Flintoff acknowledged that his Test career had reached its final stages.

Flintoff averages 31.69 with the bat and has captured 219 wickets at 32.51, figures of a decent but not great Test cricketer.


Image: Andrew Flintoff
Photographs: Reuters
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A mighty all-rounder who entertained

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Since 2005 he has not scored a Test century or taken five wickets in a Test innings.

But those privileged to see him at his best in 2004 and in the unforgettable 2005 Ashes series will cherish memories of a mighty all-rounder who hit the ball vast distances, bowled at top speed and always provided great entertainment for his enthusiastic fanbase.


Image: Andrew Flintoff
Photographs: Reuters
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