Andrew Flintoff – batsman, bowler, slip fielder, England representative

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Throughout his career, people talked about Andrew Flintoff being the new Botham. He wasn’t. He was the new Darren Gough. He was England supporters’ representative on the field of play. For the rest of this article, we will be referring to him as Andy Flintoff because that was what he was called when he became that figure.

ALWAYS look like you’re trying

Some players are great at cricket but the crowds don’t particularly take to them. Genuine crowd favourites are a rarity. Botham was one, Gough was one and Flintoff was one. It takes certain qualities to get the crowd onside and it’s not simply about runs and wickets. Mostly it’s about your attitude and your approach to the game. Andy Flintoff did not become a crowd favourite during the 2005 Ashes – that is a common misconception. He was already a favourite and he used that to his advantage.

How to bat – try and hit sixes

Violent batting is the way to people’s hearts – earthy, straightforward hitting that softens the ball through robust contact with both bat and boundary boards. Sixes help, but just putting your back into it is the main thing.

Darren Gough’s shot was the wild edge to third man for four. The runs weren’t the point; the helicopter rotor blades style follow-through that often knocked him over was the point. Flintoff was better than that. His shot was the lofted straight drive that he tried to land in his dad’s hands somewhere up in the stands.

For a long time, if there was a big match on and someone said ‘Flintoff’ to you with an urgent and excited look on their face, you would instantly know that this meant England’s fourth wicket had fallen and that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Bowling – put in the effort

You’re in a better position to win the crowd’s affections if you’re a fast bowler. It means you can show effort and flog yourself into the ground.

Andrew Flintoff became a top bowler, but we loved him because he bowled like a man who thought he could propel the ball through the batsman and into the stumps if only he tried a bit harder.

Flintoff’s flaws

We don’t want to write too much about the negatives, but they need to be acknowledged. They weren’t all his fault anyway.

The injuries were bad. We once said that he wasn’t built for fast bowling any more than an otter is built for refrigerating foodstuffs. It was frustrating for fans, so it must have been woeful for him. We still can’t believe they didn’t make him a bionic knee. If Flintoff doesn’t get one, who does?

We didn’t really care about the drinking, but we cared that he was known for drinking. It turned him into a cartoon figure; a caricature – and we thought he was better than that.

Late in his career, there were the celebrations. He won us over with genuine, heartfelt elation and when he became more calculated it felt a little like treachery to those of us who’d monitored Lancashire scorecards in those early days.

Cricket matches with corners

Far better to remember him for his finest quality. He gave England supporters the sense that something could happen at any moment. He made us think that the match could suddenly change direction.

Remember the over Flintoff bowled to Kallis?

That’s the kind of thing we’re on about. Supreme entertainment that just suddenly came from nowhere. Matches didn’t progress when Andy Flintoff was involved, they changed.

Lazy-minded people ascribed this ability to some nebulous concept that they called ‘the X-factor’ as if it were magic, but it was nothing of the sort. It was a combination of psychology, kidology, physical presence and reputation as well as one other quality that you can’t coach or buy.

Flintoff’s effect on the crowd

Because of the way he batted and bowled in those early days, Flintoff built a lasting rapport with England fans. If he showed any sign that he was going to do something remotely special on a cricket field, the crowd got behind him. When the crowd got behind him, the adrenaline kicked in. When Flintoff’s adrenaline kicked in, the crowd went mental. From there, very, very special things could happen.

Day three of the 2005 Edgbaston Test was Flintoff’s high water mark and if you want to study a player’s effect on a crowd as well as a crowd’s effect on a player, this is where you should start. Frankly, it’s also where you should finish.

The man came into bat with England 31-4. When the ninth wicket fell, he ignited a whole stadium full of people and used the blaze for power. Australia positioned most of their fielders on the boundary and still he went for sixes.

That evening he went one better.

It was 47-0 when Flintoff came on to bowl and all was flat. To put this over in perspective, he was on a hat trick with his opening delivery and that was possibly the least exciting ball. How many players can bowl overs where hat trick balls are repeatedly overshadowed?

Andy Flintoff took two wickets for one run (a no-ball) in that over, but what we remember – and what we’ll always remember – is the effect that he had on the crowd.


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  1. 890 words and you’re only bothered about the one with the typo.

    This site’s dispiriting at times. We’ve created a monster.

  2. I don’t recall that the great Australian side of recent years would have been significantly better if a few players weren’t missing due to injury. They pretty much had all of their top players all of the time. With that in mind, allow me to present the current FULL England team for the upcoming Ashes.


    Why is life not like this? It could easily be. Why is it not?

  3. More like 10 times as long. Andrew Flintoff is only going to retire once though.

    He’s not Mohammad Yousuf.

  4. At his (too brief) peak he was superb and his career averages don’t reflect this. I tend to trot this out when people say that his figures are crap. Of course the same is true of Harmison, but in his case I tend to trot out “Pah, he was only any good for a couple of years”. This sort of bears out the thrust of KC’s piece I think.

  5. Partly, but what we’re really saying is that his popularity wasn’t based on excellence and it wasn’t merely about slogging either.

    Flintoff built a relationship with England fans and he could use that relationship at big moments in Tests – and even to create big moments in Tests.

    When those of us in the stands murmured and Flintoff responded, that was a connection.

    Basically, Flintoff was more likely to contribute when fans really wanted him to, because he fed off that kind of atmosphere.

  6. I agree. The SH comparison is still instructive though. SH would sometimes just look like he was in abject surrender, to his form or to injuries or to everyday life. You would not see that from Flintoff.

    I wonder though, as these things are hard to remember in retrospect (not that you can remember in any other mode before some pedant chips in) did Flintoff have all these qualities before they became talismanic, when he was just a big northerner nobody had heard of or were they a creation of and response to his own legend?

    I’m not sure I understand what I have just written, so feel free to tell me what bollocks I am talking.

    Jarrod Kimber’s “When Freddy Became Jesus” might be worth a re-read at this point.

  7. Good fast bowlers make test cricket crowds excited.

    Good spin bowlers make test cricket crowds tense and nervous.

    Classy batsmen make test cricket crowds awe-filled.

    Big hitting batsmen make test cricket crowds jolly.

    Flintoff’s big thing was that he did the best two of these, as far as the crowds are concerned. This is why Jacque Kallis (a better all-rounder where the figures are concerned) is not Flintoff. His batting was too classy, and his bowling too subtle.

    Imagine a scenario where an evil villain has kidnapped you and held you hostage in a pointy castle. He says that if your test team doesn’t win the next match, he will tickle your feet for twenty five minutes, non stop. In this case, I’d rather have Jacque Kallis on my team. If, however, the deal was that he would only not do the feet-tickling thing if an exit poll of the crowd revealed that a majority of them was deleriously happy, it’s Flintoff for me.


  8. If you’re ahead in the game, you want Kallis. If you’re behind and need something dramatic, you’d rather have Flintoff.

    Smudge, we’d say that Flintoff had those qualities from the outset; that the crowds claimed him because of them and tht they then gave him something else through their support.

  9. Agreed with all of this. Does anyone remember his hundred against Sewth Eefrica in 2003? We’d spent the whole game being shat on from extraordinary heights, then he wandered out and gave their bowlers a delightful kicking. Suddenly the country realised, “Ooh…We’re not entirely shit!”

  10. You never quite knew what you were going to get with Flintoff, but when he came off he was awesome.

    And he tended to come off when it really mattered.

    Except Oz 2006/7 – we don’t talk about that bit.

    That Michelle at Lord’s in 2009 to break the Lord’s/Oz hoodoo – on his last legs fitnesswise by then but boy did he keep running in – wonderful stuff.

  11. How come no one’s mentioned (what for me is) his finest few minutes —

    ** Mind the windows Tino***


  12. Best balanced piece on the Flintoff Story. Top work, KC… I thought I hated him, you reminded me I loved him once and I am still allowed hold onto that.

    PS Is Kendal King Pin ‘baldy’?

  13. Totally agree with your sentiment. Across all sports, the players that receive the most love and effection from the supporters is the fan-on-the-pitch type player who we can all identify with. As you summed up far better than i could, that is exasctly why i love Andy Flintoff!

  14. He was the Ian Austin of his generation. Big, daft, liked a pint, twatted it miles and maybe bowled a bit faster sometimes.

  15. The injured England XI is interesting. It’s good not to be injured I think which makes the Aussies better.

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