Andrew Flintoff yesterday dedicated England's one-day series win in Australia to Duncan Fletcher, the team's coach. Flintoff, the captain, paid tribute to an under -pressure Fletcher following his side's 34-run victory over Australia, a win that gave the team their first overseas triumph in a one-day series since 1997-98.
The remarkable feat, achieved against everybody's expectations, allowed the England team to return home with their heads held a little higher after what has been a tough and largely disappointing tour. And nobody has received more criticism for England's Ashes humiliation than Fletcher.
"The one man I really want to thank is Duncan Fletcher," said an elated but tired Flintoff. "He has taken a few knocks for the team and it is great to repay some faith in him. He has stuck by us and helped us throughout, and I hope he can take as much joy out of it as the lads. He has been our coach for a long time and he has taken this team forward. You can see the improvement of this team since he has been with us.
"To take some silverware home is a great thrill. The past four games have been as good as I have seen an England side play. It's been unbelievable," said Flintoff. "From where we were at in Adelaide to come back in the manner we have done is credit to the team. We knew we could get better and knew we had to.
"We can also take a lot of heart from beating Australia three times on the bounce. It shows what this team can do and we will take a good spirit to the World Cup. People have been getting up back in England and hearing of another defeat was not a great feeling, so this is very much for our supporters. It has been a tough trip, and we've enjoyed these one-dayers.
"Ricky [Ponting] and his team played some fantastic cricket and to pit our wits against them in the finals with a young, inexperienced but vastly improving team has been great. To beat them is right up there with anything I have achieved," Flintoff said.
"We stayed together throughout and to take something home is great. We had our knocks to get in the final and we had to play some fantastic cricket to get here.
"I have been really proud to lead us and to finally get a trophy - my first as captain - is a real thrill."
Flintoff added: "It has been a long, tough winter, but it shows that two weeks in cricket is a long time. We have won four on the bounce and coming into this final we didn't want to let it slip. There was a real determination to put in a good performance. The lads went out and fought and we deserved to win on the day.
"Now we hope to take this form into the World Cup. After the Ashes we were like, 'Where do we go from here?' The only way was up. It was a tough trip, but we have worked hard and played with a smile on our faces and come through.
"Paul Collingwood was unbelievable. He epitomised the character in the team and carried it to them again. What a time for him to hit form. He came out and played as we know he can play.
"It doesn't cover up the disappointment of the Ashes but taking something away is pleasing."