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?
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee