Broad shoulders to take on the mantle of the next Flintoff

Life without Freddie suddenly doesn't seem so bad as young pretender comes of age in Oval cauldron

There was something perfectly poignant about the timing. All summer long – and for a few summers before that – there had been the nagging question about life after Flintoff. It mattered not that for half the time during Flintoff, the man himself was never there.

His performance at Lord's in the Second Test merely exacerbated the issue. Five wickets, bowling virtually on one leg, and victory against Australia at Lord's for the first time in three-quarters of a century. Here was the warrior being a warrior and winning the match in a theatrical exhibition whose memory will endure.

And when he was left out at Leeds – dropped would not be too extreme considering the embarrassing reaction from Flintoff's agent commenting on his charge's distress – and England played like patsies, the topic had fresh resonance.

So as Freddie and the Ashes circus reached their final destination at The Oval, it was made for him. He would bestride the scene and as he limped into the sunset England would be in his wake wondering what the hell to do next.

Instead Fred stood by in a supporting role – an important one, but supporting for all that – while another produced the astonishing performance with the ball that put the Ashes within England's grasp.

As Stuart Broad bowled the spell of his embryonic international career, Flintoff, who was encouraging throughout, might have considered signalling to the dressing room for a baton to be brought on so he could pass it on.

Broad may well bowl spells of equal statistical weight for England in the 10 years that would seem to lie ahead for him, but none of them will match its resonance. Or at least none until he passes on the baton.

It would be misguided to presume that Broad is the new Flintoff; a walk to glory beckons and that's that. Broad is a different player from Flintoff as Flintoff has been a different player from another all-rounder, Ian Botham.

But Broad now gives England some realistic options. He has grown visibly as a cricketer throughout the series and he has a presence which he is all too willing to let the opposition know about. This he has done despite extreme scepticism about his development and he has been willing to absorb lessons and put them into practice. Doubtless he has been helped by the faith placed in him by England's coach, Andy Flower.

At every turn, when asked, Flower has never missed the opportunity to pay tribute to Broad's approach and the manner in which he has taken to Test cricket. Broad's temperament is imperfect, he has inherited some of the foibles of his father, Chris, and if his refusal to be cowed is commendable in some circumstances he might consider buttoning his lip occasionally.

What Broad has demonstrated above all in this match – apart from probably winning the Ashes – is that there is a future for this England side. It is a modest squad which is on the verge of beating a modest Australia side.

The Australians, from being No 1 one in the world for so long, will fall in the official rankings from one to four, a place above England. It is a tumble from grace usually experienced only by chart-topping records that everyone has already bought.

Australia have problems of their own. They must resolve them on their own. No need to send in food parcels to the Cricket Australia HQ in Jollimont Street, Melbourne just yet.

Flower and Andrew Strauss, the England captain, will have had their plate full this past few months with working out how to beat Australia (and must sometimes have despaired about doing so). But with Flintoff's departure now certain, they will always have had at the back of their minds what could be done, how the team would be balanced.

Broad, it may be presumed, would be too high at No 7 but he has done well enough at eight in this series – two fifties, plenty of other bold runs – to suggest that the notion, against most teams, is not wholly fanciful.

England have plenty of defects. They need to start thinking of hiring a spare opener, they might like to consider discovering a middle-order batsmen who was not taught the game in South Africa. They have looked ordinary to the point of incompetence at times.

But they have hung on in there. England came to The Oval expected to lose. Instead they will recapture the Ashes. Broad's magnificent 5 for 37 on Friday afternoon, which had nothing to do with the pitch, was pivotal. In those two hours things changed forever.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little