Andrew Flintoff: In the Thick of It, As Always
Long-time readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of the game of cricket, particularly the longest form of the game: the Test Match. Up to five days—yep, that's right, five days
—of bat against ball. It's the purest form of the game: it can be deadly dull or impossibly exciting, and you never really know which kind of match you're going to see until you turn up.
In all of the five-day contests that take place year round, there's perhaps no more intense contest than that between Australia and England that takes place every other year. It's called the "Ashes," and you can read about why it's called that and the extraordinary heroics of the England team in 2005 by clicking here
. England won in 2005 (very much against the form of the two sides) and then lost catastrophically in 2006–2007 (very much according to form). Since then, however, a number of hall-of-famers have retired from the Australian team and England has rebuilt itself. So this year's Ashes contest was keenly anticipated when in began in Cardiff in early July.
The contest has not disappointed. England managed to drag a tie from the jaws of a loss, in scenes of such nailbiting tension that the game even got written up in the New York Times
. The teams then moved on to London and Lord's
, the historic ground where England had not beaten the Australians in seventy-five years. There England pulled off a famous victory
, mainly due to the heroics of that perennial Ashes favorite Andrew Flintoff
, who announced his retirement from the Test form of the game before the start of play. His body was too broken and battered to continue, he said. And yet he summoned every last ounce of energy and conviction to produce a performance that brought the crowd to its feet.
Flintoff is the kind of Englishman that the English love. He's straightforward, likes his beer, has lots of courage and not much sophistication, and loves a battle when the English are the (perceived) underdogs. Flintoff's marquee teammate, South African-born Kevin Pietersen—brash and flamboyant where Flintoff is surprisingly modest—and who was the other standout in the 2005 Ashes series, is now injured, and questions remain about Flintoff's fitness. What both Australians and English want to know as the teams head to Edgbaston
in the English midlands for the third test match, is what effect all of this will have on the teams. As always, however, we'll never know: and that's the beauty of Test cricket.