Sunday 19 September 2010

Freddie Redux

Last night the Beeb screened another of Peter Morgan's dramas about Tony Blair, this one about the 'special relationship' between TB and Bill Clinton. In an early scene, just after Blair had become PM, Hilary Clinton told him at dinner to plan his own legacy right away. 'If you don't', she said, 'then they'll start doing it for you'.

It's advice that doesn't only hold true for Tone, who gave it his best shot [and continues to do so...]. Andrew Flintoff's legacy has been much in the news this week, and it's been interesting to note how equivocally he's been written about. There has barely been a column without a pointed mention of the big lad's love of an endorsement or a quid. Michael Vaughan - Brearley to Fred's Botham [sort of] - conceded too that Fred had been 'difficult to captain' post-2005.

Flintoff exists in an age where his sporting legacy lives on separately. A few years of insipid reality TV shows might dilute the potency of his everyman appeal.

But cricket will, I think, be kind. There was a little hubris at the end, and a little too much awareness of his image, but for the wholeheartedness of his endeavours he will be loved.

Fred bowled the single best over I've ever seen, at Edgbaston in '05. It's been summoned in almost every elegy this week, but what's not often drawn is its context, and context, in these things, is everything.

The narrative of the series was not yet established. England were still England. Australia were still immortal. England had been drubbed at Lord's. They'd come back spiritedly on first innings at Edgbaston, but a second innings collapse, resisted only by Fred who got 70-odd, set Australia 282 to win.

Hayden, ego not yet brought low by Hoggy and Jones, and Langer ripped at Harmison and Hoggard. They had 40-odd on the board in no time. It was very much business as usual - 240-ish to win, 10 wickets in hand, a customary 2-0 lead in sight.

That Flintoff over was his first of the innings. How remarkable. Perhaps he'd already got inside Langer's head, who knows? [JL would later be unusually effusive about Flintoff, but not yet]. Whatever, he went around the wicket, got some bounce and Langer played on. It was what happened next that made things extraordinary. He squared Ponting up, cast doubt where there was none. He bowled a no-ball on the sixth delivery. Ponting must have wanted to tell the umpire not to bother. Then the last ball, flickering away, Punter's bottom hand steering his edge at it, and oblivion. Perfect.

You can make a good case for the series turning on that moment. You can make a good case for Flintoff's second life beginning there. Freddie made it happen without knowing that he had. Now he just has to deal with it. Great over though... in context.


elegantstroke said...

absolutely. that might have been the over of the series. From then on, Aussies shook in their boots if Flintoff got the ball - there was pace, the awkward bounce, the movement, the variation and the murderous line for left-hand batsmen.

The way the media writes, there's two freddies, one before 2005 and one after..the one after, they loathe because of too much self-promotion and lack of professionalism. I think he set the bar really high in 05 and never remained consistent thereafter. but for turning that 05 ashes around, he will always be remembered.

The Bald Man said...

A very well balanced article I reckon.