'It's not much fun facing Fred in the nets either'
Captain praises Flintoff's fire as all-rounder says he'll do all he can to last the series
Tuesday 21 July 2009
Andrew Strauss was as happy as an England captain can be after yesterday's long-awaited Ashes win here: happy to be 1-0 up, happy that his players can now have a break and especially happy that he only has to face Andrew Flintoff in the nets.
First slip is probably the perfect place to stand when Flintoff is thundering in like a juggernaut at top speed, and Strauss had a grandstand view as the fast bowler defied knee pain to take three more Australian wickets and finish with 5 for 92.
"Sometimes he doesn't get his just rewards for his hostility," Strauss said. "Sometimes he doesn't get those five-fors, but no batsman enjoys the spells he bowls and it was good to see him get what he deserved this game because that kind of hostility is unpleasant to face. Quite frankly it's unpleasant in the nets – and it's not much fun in the middle, either."
Fun? It looked like absolute torture for Australia's batsmen during this match, and particularly yesterday morning as Flintoff reeled off 10 overs and seldom dropped below 90 mph.
The best moment of all, of course, came when the 31-year-old rearranged Peter Siddle's stumps to claim only the third five-wicket haul of his 77-Test career – and his first at Lord's.
"It was nice from my point of view to get five wickets in my last Test at Lord's," said Flintoff with typical understatement. "It's nice to get my name up on that honours board but to go 1-0 up in an Ashes series is a big one. This has been a fantastic team performance and we will enjoy this moment – I know I will – but there are still three Tests to go. We've done all right and we've won one match, but we've got to keep improving."
Australia have heard the rumours that Flintoff's intended retirement from Test cricket following this series may need to be brought forward because of his knee problem. And, not surprisingly after facing him here, they have dismissed such talk as "rubbish". Flintoff sounds like a man determined to prove them right on that point, at least.
"I have three Tests to go and I will do anything to get out onto that field and finish the series," he said. "The encouraging thing from my point of view is that I've bowled all my overs in this match. I may have had a bit of discomfort but I've played most of my career in discomfort, so that's nothing new. I want to be in an Ashes-winning team come the last match at The Oval. To be on that podium at the last Test will be the perfect way to go."
Flintoff has said several times in recent years that he is still improving as a bowler. Now he reckons he is getting faster as well. Add the fact that England are suddenly throwing him the new ball, rather than using him as a first- or second-change performer, and it is a shame that the end is nigh. Unless you are a batsman, of course.
Still as Flintoff left Lord's last night for some rest and rehabilitation before Thursday week's third Test at Edgbaston, Flintoff could reflect on having his name on both honours boards, batting and bowling, at the home of cricket. "I'm on the other side for a dodgy hundred against South Africa [in 2003, when England lost] but to be the last name up there in an Ashes series in my last Test at Lord's when we've won the game does mean a hell of a lot," he said.
So Australia can expect another date with Flintoff in Birmingham. Kevin Pietersen's appearance at Edgbaston seems less likely, however, because of a chronic Achilles problem. "It was obviously hurting him," said Strauss. "The medical staff will be reviewing things. We have to be certain the 11 we choose for Edgbaston are going to get through the game."
View from Down Under Beaten by the man on one knee
*Sydney Morning Herald
Headline: Bow down to Freddie – beaten by the man on one knee
"OK so we lost. Having said that, we lost a Test, not the Ashes. Of course, we will reflect on what might have been – what might have been, for instance, if the reputation of British sportsmanship hadn't sunk into abject ignominy over that 'catch'. Or if a crucial no-ball had been noticed by a myopic umpire. But enough of all that. The annoying thing, the REALLY annoying thing, is that we've had the wood on the Poms at Lord's since 1934 – 75 years of rubbing their noses in it."
*The Age, Melbourne
Headline: Strauss' style is unappealing
"At Lord's, England again has been the uglier team. Strauss claimed a catch replays showed to be doubtful. A cricket team takes its cues from its captain. Flintoff was more suited to leading by example than instruction, Pietersen was divisive, but Strauss' appointment looked a vote for good sense. Strauss' England had revealed itself to be competitive, but manipulative and petty."
*The Daily Telegraph, Sydney
Headline: Flintoff destroys Aussies at Lord's
"Patched-up hero Andrew Flintoff brutally destroyed Australia and ended England's Ashes jinx at the home of cricket. Storming in on one good leg, Flintoff carried the weight of a nation on his shoulders and sent down a fearsome barrage to send Australia into a deep Ashes abyss." Ben Dorries
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