Flintoff joins élite Wisden cricketers of the year

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The Independent Online

Andrew Flintoff has been rewarded for the most consistent 12 months of his international career by being named among the five cricketers of the year in the new Wisden Almanack.

The Lancashire all-rounder was rewarded for his brilliant strokeplay in the drawn series with South Africa last summer, which included a superb 142 at Lord's and his flamboyant 95 which swung the final Test England's way at The Oval.

He is included in the traditional list of five players in the new 141st edition of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, which is published today, alongside the South African pair Graeme Smith and Gary Kirsten, who both made big contributions to the series against England.

The Australian all-rounder Ian Harvey is also included after another superb season with Gloucestershire, which included a man-of-the-match award in last year's Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy final success over Worcestershire. Chris Adams completes the list after leading Sussex to their first Championship last summer.

Flintoff is also one of only three Englishmen alongside Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick who appear in a new section in this year's book, which highlights the 40 leading players in the world based on their form in 2003. The Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, heads the list, which includes 13 other Australians, seven South Africans, five Indians, four Pakistanis, three Sri Lankans, two New Zealanders and one each from West Indies (Brian Lara) and Zimbabwe (Heath Streak).

Ponting also shares the cover with Steve Waugh, his predecessor as Australian captain, following last year's break with tradition when Wisden included a picture on the front for the first time, which featured Vaughan.

In the traditional hard-hitting notes from the editor, Matthew Engel, who has returned from a three-year absence to take charge again, he is particularly critical of both the International Cricket Council and the England and Wales Cricket Board for their handling of the Zimbabwe affair, which he describes as "incoherent and inconsistent".

He goes on to say: "Somewhere in the dust, by no means easy to find, is a line that no decent human beings should cross. And I believe the wretched tyranny that is Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is now across that line and no team should tour there."