Flintoff retires as Pietersen adds to England's fears

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Freddie to end Test career after series as injury returns to put team-mate in doubt

In the churchyard of St John the Evangelist in the Hampshire village of West Meon lies the grave of Thomas Lord. Every four years around this time he must turn in it as England try again to beat Australia at the ground he built in 1814.

It has not happened on 18 occasions since 1934 and the time before that was in 1896. The old boy, who died in 1832, might have been rotating a little more last night with the latest revelations about England's two most illustrious players. Andrew Flintoff formally confirmed yesterday his intention to retire from Test cricket, getting in first just before his rickety body did it for him, and will depart after this series. He remains a slight doubt even for the crucial match that begins today and will be watched not only by a house full for the entire five days but by the eyes of the cricket world after the rousing draw in Cardiff.

But if optimism was growing for Flintoff now that he has a clear short-term objective in mind, it was declining rapidly around Kevin Pietersen, whose chronic Achilles tendon injury has recurred. Some informed reports yesterday suggested that Pietersen was extremely uncertain about playing in the second Test, with the Ashes dramatically tied at 0-0.

England denied that Pietersen was in doubt, pointing out that they had released their only spare batsman, Ian Bell, though the one does not necessarily follow the other, given past performances on divining the fitness for duty or otherwise of players.

Flintoff had three cortisone injections in his troublesome knee on Monday and Pietersen had one in his Achilles at the same time – the last possible – following another in his side last week. For a little while it seemed that England's Big Two were extending their friendly but meaningful rivalry even into the treatment room.

The day's events were dominated by Flintoff's declaration, early evidence that the summer will be likewise and become a Farewell to Freddie Cavalcade beginning and ending in the metropolis at Lord's and at The Oval, but taking in the provinces in between in the form of Birmingham and Leeds. That assumes that Flintoff's body from ankle upwards stays in one piece.

The captains of both sides, there to give some assessment of how they saw the match developing, were deluged by questions about Flintoff, his contribution to the game and what his departure might mean for this series and for the England side thereafter. There were many more imponderables besides.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, who had appeared on a question-and-answer platform at his benefit dinner in the Lord's Long Room the previous night when they both managed to keep the secret, was studiously pragmatic.

"As players we've probably had a feeling this was coming sooner rather than later," Strauss said. "With the injuries he's had over the last couple of years, you kind of got the feeling that something had to give and given that Test match bowling puts so much more pressure on his body, it seems like the logical thing to do."

Strauss, however, could probably have done without it coming just now. The series is tied at 0-0 and in England's case that is an extremely fortunate state of affairs. They needed, it would have been thought, to concentrate every fibre of their being on matching or beating Australia in this match on this ground, the quadrennial graveyard of their ambitions.

Flintoff probably felt he had to do it now because before every Test there have been bulletins about his latest injury. At least he was putting a time limit on that, but he might have considered waiting until the end of the series.

His manager, Chubby Chandler, said: "He was going to retire at the end of the series anyway. After he had three cortisone injections on Monday I thought it was maybe an opportunity to sort of get it clear now and letting people know what he was going through as opposed to doing it at the end when win or lose it would look different."

With or without Flintoff (and indeed Pietersen), Strauss has a Test match to win. With or without Flintoff he intends to play five bowlers, which means that Stuart Broad will bat at seven. It is a strategy fraught with risk. But at least it will mean a place for the man in form, Graham Onions, who may be England's unsung trump card. As Strauss said: "I think if you've gone for 670 runs and only taken six wickets, it's probably not a great option to reduce your bowling attack.

"We are pretty comfortable with five bowlers. That's a nice balance for us. I know the bowlers are very keen to make amends for what happened in Cardiff and, hopefully, the conditions here will be a little bit more bowler-friendly."

They need to because it was clear that Australia are ready to protect their proud record at all costs. The potential for more grave-spinning in West Meon is immense, but some time he has to stop and this could be it.

Right said Fred: Flintoff's Test record

Test debut v South Africa (Trent Bridge) July 1998. Won by eight wickets

Caps: 76 (of possible 139)

Batting

Inn: 125, Runs: 3,708, Ave: 31.69

100s: 5, 50s: 25, Highest score: 167 v West Indies, Edgbaston, July 2004

Bowling

Wickets: 219@32.51 5-for 2 10-for 0

Best: (innings) 5-58 (match) 8-156

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie