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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago