The Oval, July 2000
If there was one moment when Andrew Flintoff announced himself, this was probably it. He went in at No 3 for Lancashire against Surrey in the NatWest Trophy quarter-final. A modest target of 211 was soon putty in his hands as he hit the ball with the boldness of one who knew no fear. Anything seemed possible for Flintoff that afternoon and the men commentating for Sky, who had seen most things, struggled to contain their excitement as boundary followed boundary. After Mike Atherton was out very early, Flintoff shared a second-wicket partnership of 190 with Sourav Ganguly, of which Ganguly's share was 51. There were 19 fours and four sixes in an innings of 135 not out which took 111 balls. The world was at his feet.
Karachi, October 2000
England needed 305 to beat Pakistan in the first match of a one-day series they were expected to lose. The pursuit was running out of steam when Flintoff came in at 166 for 4 but he shocked a packed stadium with his pyrotechnics. A full, fervent house had seen Abdul Razzaq smite 75 from 40 balls and now here was a burly, pale-faced Englishman doing likewise. Three sixes, six fours, 84 runs, 60 balls and, characteristically, out blazing away with three still wanted. The hurt look on Flintoff's face said much as England's winning captain, Nasser Hussain, told the post-match briefing that it was a good innings but the kid still had plenty to do. Hussain's words were wiser than we knew at the time, though Fred was perplexed; he wanted to be told how good he was.
Mumbai, February 2002
The great shirt-waving incident. Against all expectations, England had slugged it out toe to toe with India in a one-day series. The home side led 3-2 going into the final match. Flintoff bowled the final over with India needing six to win. Anil Kumble was run out and then Flintoff produced a trademark yorker which bowled Javagal Srinath. England had won by five runs to tie the series and Flintoff cavorted round the Wankhede Stadium waving his shirt round his head. It did not go down well with the locals. Ganguly repaid the compliment by taking off his shirt when his India side beat England at Lord's five months later.
Edgbaston, August 2005
The 13th over of Australia's second innings in the Second Test of the Ashes; they have reached 48 for 0, needing 282. With the second ball, Flintoff bowls Justin Langer off an inside edge. With the third ball he hits Ricky Ponting on the pads as it jags back, with the fifth he does likewise and with the sixth, after a no-ball, he induces an edge to the wicketkeeper with a ball moving away just enough. It was a wonderful over in any circumstances, in the context of this match it was pretty near perfect. England, of course, went on to win by two runs and Flintoff was on his way to glory.
Nottingham, August 2005
This was Freddie's summer as no summer had belonged to a player since Ian Botham in 1981. When he went in to bat in England's first innings in the Fourth Test they were 213 for 4 but needed to consolidate. Flintoff played with as much solid determination as he ever had but always kept the board ticking over. He had recovered his form at Edgbaston when batting like a whirling dervish but his control at Trent Bridge was of a man recognising that his time had come. His only Ashes century, he made 102 in 201 minutes from 135 balls.
London, September 2005
England have won the Ashes and Fred indulges in one of the great displays of forgivable public drunkenness. No lord has ever been tipsier as Flintoff, in dark glasses, makes his way to Trafalgar Square and eventually to Lord's. The public thought Fred on the toot was a hoot.
Mumbai, February 2006
Here seemed concrete evidence that it was possible to lead a team by force of personality alone. Down in the series, England won as India collapsed in a heap on the final day. Flintoff seemed inspirational then, the dressing room resounded to the sounds of "Ring of Fire" and oh, how we laughed. He made his fourth consecutive Test fifty, took three second-innings wickets and was on top of the world again.
Sydney, January 2007
How long ago that day in India seemed. It had all gone wrong for Flintoff. Injury had blighted his summer, but he regained the captaincy for the Ashes when Michael Vaughan was injured. It had been calamitous. England were beaten 5-0 and were in disarray. Flintoff was captain and enjoyed its trappings but he spent too many nights in the bar from the off. One morning in Sydney, in a practice session for a one-day match, he turned up still drunk from his carousing the night before. He could hardly throw or catch. The coach, Duncan Fletcher, was incandescent and stopped the practice early. England won the match two days later by 92 runs.
St Lucia, March 2007
England have lost the crucial opening match of their World Cup campaign to New Zealand. Flintoff (and others) go out for a drink and one leads to another. Flintoff, not at his most sober, leaves the party and on the way back to the hotel he tries to launch one of its pedalos. Fortunately, he is unable to launch it. He is stripped of the vice-captaincy and banned for a match. However, the public still love him.
Flanders, April 2009
The team go for a bonding session to the First World War graves in Belgium before the Ashes. After a team dinner and session at the bar, Fred is late for the bus taking them to the trenches. The team aren't amused.
Lord's, July 2009
His final spell as an authentic fast bowler in Tests. He bowls at the Australians with intelligence and fury, with the crowd once more at his back. It is wonderful stuff as Flintoff takes 5 for 92 and simply will not give up the ball from the Pavilion End on the final morning. The knee which will eventually do for him is causing agony but this is where Fred the Lionheart was born to prosper.
The Oval, August 2009
So it ends. Flintoff's final decisive intervention in a Test turns the Ashes England's way. Fielding at mid-on, he runs out Ponting with a direct throw. Though we were not to be sure at the time, he hobbles off into the sunset forever. He owes England nothing.