Flintoff's landmark – guts, glory and guessing games

As Andrew Flintoff took his 200th Test wicket yesterday – or his 193rd depending on your view of what constitutes a Test match – it was possible to wonder how England coped in his absence. Of course, that was matched by consideration of how they should manage his presence.

That is the thing about Freddie: can't live without him, don't know how to live with him. He was welcomed back a Test ago with arms as wide open as the Red Sea and there is no question that he would be in any England team that rational selectors, as well as the current bunch, would care to pick.

At 2.17pm, 10 years and eight days after making his England debut, he became the 12th England bowler, the 55th in all, to reach the milestone. The first was Australia's Clarrie Grimmett at the age of 44 in 1936. The first Englishman was Alec Bedser in 1953.

It was a characteristically dogged piece of bowling that did for Neil McKenzie. The first three balls, all quick, were left outside off stump, the fourth, slightly straighter, was whipped through mid-wicket, the fifth was driven straight for four. Flintoff then delivered a replica of the fourth ball, perhaps slightly quicker, to which McKenzie elected to play a forward defensive stroke. It snaked back and he was straightforwardly leg before.

By this time Flintoff was already doing most of the bowling – and all of it that mattered. If there were a way to test his dodgy left ankle, this was it. But his heart, as ever, was big and getting bigger. His 201st wicket (or 194th) utterly embodied his spirit.

Flintoff had been denied the wicket of Jacques Kallis in his 22nd over, although the yorker would have gone on to hit the stumps if it had not struck Kallis's toe. Flintoff, like Howard Beale in Sidney Lumet's Network, was as mad as hell and he wasn't going to take it any more. He let umpire Aleem Dar know his feelings from square leg throughout the next over before he took the ball again.

In imperfect light he bowled venomously at Kallis. The first ball of the over was a bouncer which whistled past Kallis's nose. He probably smelt the cordite. The next two were quick and slanted in; Kallis was rattled. The fourth ball was a ripsnorter, full and swinging away. It ripped out Kallis's off stump.

Flintoff, the crowd roaring him on, was in his element. It was visceral stuff. A B de Villiers may as well have been a walking wicket. And yet.

No bowler has taken so many wickets and yet so few times – twice – taken five Test wickets in an innings. Indeed, you have to go down to 99th place on the all-time list before finding another bowler (Merv Dillon, of West Indies, who has 131) with so few five-wicket hauls. Flintoff's advocates would say he has applied pressure for others. So he has, but it also bespeaks of an infrequent tendency to dictate the course of matches as great bowlers do. Maybe Flintoff has a style which lets the batsmen leave the ball too much on their terms.

He has, perversely, disturbed the balance of the England side, especially if he has to continue to bowl so much and if those who decree such matters (the selectors? The coach and the captain? Who knows?) continue to insist that he bats at seven, not six.

As for 193 opposed to 200, Freddie took seven wickets in a match for the World XI against Australia in 2005. The International Cricket Council decided this was a Test match. They were confusing exhibition matches with Test matches, a difficult thing to do, though by the ICC's standards perfectly normal.

Flintoff's Test progress

First Test: wicket v South Africa (Trent Bridge) July '98 (J E Kallis c Stewart 47)

100th Test: wicket v South Africa (Cape Town) Jan '05 (H H Gibbs c GO Jones 24)

200th Test: wicket v South Africa (Edgbaston) July '08 (N D McKenzie lbw 72)

Test record

Tests: 69

Wickets: 200

Average: 32.24 (ave excluding this Test)

England's leading Test wicket-takers

I T Botham (102 Tests) 383

R G D Willis (90) 325

F S Trueman (67) 307

D L Underwood (86) 297

J B Statham (70) 252

M J Hoggard (67) 248

A V Bedser (51) 236

A R Caddick (62) 234

D Gough (58) 229

S J Harmison (56) 208

A Flintoff (68) 202

J A Snow (49) 202

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
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

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform