• Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Freddie Flintoff’s spine-tingling over in ‘the greatest Test’ saw England fall in love with cricket

Bynewsmagzines

Jun 15, 2023
Freddie Flintoff's spine-tingling over in 'the greatest Test' saw England fall in love with cricket

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Huge excitement is building ahead of this summer’s Ashes, although the first Test at Edgbaston surely won’t match what played out in 2005.

There’s no shame in that of course, the thrilling second Test which saw England edge to a dramatic two-run victory at Warwickshire’s home, is viewed by many as the greatest of them all.

Flintoff was a big name in cricket at this stage, but this over plus his heroics across the series made him a household name

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Flintoff was a big name in cricket at this stage, but this over plus his heroics across the series made him a household nameCredit: Getty

Going into the match having been humbled to a 239-run defeat in the opener at Lord’s, England knew that without vast improvements their bid to win a first Ashes series in 16 years would be in jeopardy.

Two days of fine work by England, which saw them register a 99-run lead after the first innings, was practically undone in two sessions on day three as the world champions fought back by skittling England out for 182.

Australia, set a modest target of 282 to take a 2-0 lead in the series, started their second innings swimmingly as Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden got them to 47-0 – that was until Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff stepped in.

It was a gamble by then-England captain Michael Vaughan to bring Flintoff into the attack, the latter experiencing discomfort in his shoulder earlier in the day when batting. Mind you, he did hit Brett Lee for two stunning sixes in the same over during a brilliant cameo.

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His bowling performance was what made the real headlines as Flintoff enjoyed an iconic over, which cricket icon Ricky Ponting later said was the best he ever faced.

Starting on a hat-trick ball having claimed Australia’s final two wickets in the first innings, a raucous Edbgaston willed him to find the all-important breakthrough, but the experienced Langer saw it off with a text book defence shot.

Second ball – GOT HIM. Bowling round the wicket, Flintoff’s 86mph delivery bounced onto left-hander Langer’s elbow before crashing into the stumps.

England made a bright start to the Test

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England made a bright start to the TestCredit: Getty
But the pendulum swung back in Australia's favour as they ripped through England in the second innings

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But the pendulum swung back in Australia’s favour as they ripped through England in the second inningsCredit: Getty
Flintoff bowled Langer with this beauty, but the best was yet to come

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Flintoff bowled Langer with this beauty, but the best was yet to comeCredit: Getty

Third ball – Ricky Ponting, who’s second in the all-time Test runs records – at the striker’s end and was undone as Flintoff’s ball struck his pads but umpire Billy Bowden’s raised finger wasn’t forthcoming despite the pleading of the animated England players and fans.

Fourth ball – Ponting gets bat on ball but edges it, however, it doesn’t carry to Ashley Giles in the gully.

Fifth ball – Flintoff smelling blood has another LBW appeal turned down. One last chance, it seems.

Sixth ball – Left well by Ponting but a no-ball is signalled. Flintoff gets another go.

*Ball six – GOT HIM. A beautiful leg-cutter by Flintoff is nicked by Ponting and caught behind by Geraint Jones. 47-2.

“Flintoff’s changed the whole feeling of the occasion,” legendary cricket commentator Mark Nicholas expertly put it as Edgbaston delighted in England did what their opponents did to them by ripping through the Australian top and middle order.

A late fightback by the tail-enders on day four almost saw the Aussies claim the unlikely victory and although it was talkSPORT’s Steve Harmison who got the final wicket, it was Flintoff’s heroics that turned the match back in the home side’s favour.

And perhaps the series, too. England dominated after that. They outplayed Australia in the third Test but the resilient away side held out for a draw. England made it 2-1 in the fourth with a rampant victory before sealing a draw in the fifth Test to end their Ashes hoodoo.

Flintoff's wonderful act of sportsmanship to Lee is one of the iconic photos of the 2005 series

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Flintoff’s wonderful act of sportsmanship to Lee is one of the iconic photos of the 2005 seriesCredit: AFP
England got the narrow victory in the second Test and the tide turned in their favour after that

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England got the narrow victory in the second Test and the tide turned in their favour after thatCredit: Getty
England's triumph over the star-studded Aussies left a legacy

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England’s triumph over the star-studded Aussies left a legacyCredit: AFP

talkSPORT’s Jon Norman recalled how he was at Crystal Palace’s ground, Selhurst Park, during Flintoff’s magic over and admitted that he and everyone else in the press room was watching the cricket on a small portable TV instead of the football that was happening yards away – scenes like these perfectly capture the impact this series had.

A nation rejoiced at England’s triumph, many of those cheers coming from supporters who two months prior didn’t care for the game.

But overnight the England team became household names with their boozy celebrations at 10 Downing Street still bringing the smile to the face to those old enough to remember.

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As for hero of the series Flintoff, he didn’t do half bad. He was awarded an MBE after England’s victory and remains a household name as after cricket he established a very successful sports broadcasting and showbiz career.

Without those key wickets, maybe Flintoff wouldn’t have had all that after his playing career.

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