Flintoff's perfect year capped by top sports award

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The Independent Online

Flintoff was woken from his slumber at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Lahore once the result of the voting was known, and accepted his prize at 3am local time from Ian Botham, the last cricketer to win the award. Flintoff said: "As a kid growing up watching cricket it was either Ian Botham or Viv Richards for me, so receiving the award from Beefy made it a lot sweeter. He was the last cricketer to win it, he was an all-rounder too so to receive it from him was great.

"It was an amazing few weeks being involved in the Ashes and it will be something I reflect on when I have finished my career. If we can continue playing the way we have, we will be hoping to put in a repeat performance. It would be a great thrill to do it over there as well."

Flintoff returned to bed - England play a second one-day international against Pakistan this morning - immediately after receiving his prize on a historic evening for cricket.

In London, Michael Vaughan, the England captain, collected the Team of the Year trophy on behalf of his colleagues, the majority of whom are still in Pakistan.

Flintoff is the fourth cricketer to be voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. His predecessors were Jim Laker, the Surrey and England off-spinner in 1956; David Steele, the Northamptonshire and England batsman in 1975, and Botham in 1981. All four won their awards after an Ashes summer.

The 1981 Test series has become known as "Botham's Ashes", and in years to come the series of 2005, which captivated the nation from the end of July through to the middle of September, will surely become known as Flintoff's Ashes.

Shane Warne, Australia's legendary leg-spinner, ensured that cricket took all the night's major prizes when he was deservedly named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. Warne's wizardry and competitive nature highlighted why he is the greatest bowler to play the game. He collected 40 England wickets during the summer, and but for Flintoff's brilliance, the Ashes would still belong to Australia.

Following a nervous first Test, when the expectation and pressure became too much for him, Flintoff performed superbly against Australia. Throughout England's Ashes campaign, he was the figure that inspired Vaughan's side whenever they were down. England's success was born out of a wonderful team ethic, and every player contributed at some stage of the summer, but there were still times when it felt as though Flintoff was taking the Aussies on by himself. In the five Tests, he took 24 wickets at an average of 27.29 and scored 402 runs at an average of 40.2.

However, these figures are not the main reason for Flintoff's popularity. Throughout the summer, he played sport as it should be played. He was competitive, he was ruthless, but he was also fair.

Flintoff is also modest and human. Unlike a number of top sportsmen, who enjoy showing off their wealth and drifting around in a world of celebrity, Flintoff prefers a simple lifestyle. He enjoys a pint with his mates and a bag of chips on the way home. People can relate to him and easily forgave him for the all-night bender after England's Ashes win.

To many, the sight of Vaughan lifting the little urn at The Oval, or the jubilant scenes which followed England's open-top bus parade as it made its way to Trafalgar Square, were the strongest memories of a glorious summer. But the picture of Flintoff squatting down and consoling a heroic and heartbroken Brett Lee after he had narrowly failed to rescue Australia at Edgbaston, was the image of the Ashes. While Flintoff told Lee to stand up and be proud of what he had achieved, the remaining England players were going wild. Only after he made this gesture did he go off and celebrate with his team-mates.

Award winners

Sports Personality of Year - Andrew Flintoff

Team of the Year - England cricket team

Lifetime achievement award - Pele

Coach of the Year - Jose Mourinho

Special Award - Lord Sebastian Coe

Overseas sports personality - Shane Warne

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