Lancashire director of cricket Mike Watkinson insists Andrew Flintoff is not guaranteed a place in the side, but Lightning fans will be looking forward to a new wave of classic ‘Freddie’ antics nonetheless.
Watkinson’s comments were perhaps an attempt to reassure Flintoff’s team mates that the former England star will face the same scrutiny as the rest of the squad, but even he must find the chance for more famous Flintoff moments irresistible.
A career that saw numerous comparisons with Three Lions legend Ian Botham was defined aptly during England’s 2006-2007 Ashes tour of Australia, which ended in a 5-0 defeat. It was a score line that the Barmy Army will struggle to forget, but for Flintoff, it will no doubt be best remembered for a bizarre incident involving a dingy.
He had hardly been vice-captain for very long before he was unceremoniously removed from the role after a drunken night out brought shame upon what was already a fairly shameful tour, and ended with Flintoff in a pedalo boat.
Locals reported seeing the all-rounder hitting the town on an (admittedly impressive) eight-hour drinking spree, and he eventually had to be helped out of the sea after falling into rough waters. Although Freddie is remembered adoringly by England fans, his relationship with them did not always go swimmingly, so to speak, as it was they who tipped off the England coaching staff, disgruntled that such behaviour was going on while the team was playing so poorly.
Flintoff has made headlines wherever he has gone, and that included into the world of boxing, where he retired after one – albeit successful – bout against American heavyweight Richard Dawson. It must be said the sport was not overly welcoming, and did not take kindly to the introduction of a man who once graced the company of the MCC.
It is perhaps best, then, to look back at Flintoff’s career the way he would probably prefer us to, which is on the pitch, though he clearly embraces his reputation off it.
His role in the memorable 2005 Ashes was the pinnacle of that career, including what has since been dubbed ‘the greatest over ever bowled’, even by his critics. Justin Langer was dismissed with the second ball, before Aussie captain Ricky Ponting survived two lbw shouts. That should have been the end of it, had Flintoff not given away a no-ball on the final ball; his next would pick off Ponting, who could only look bewildered at how he had been undone in just four almost faultless deliveries.
By the time the 2009 Ashes arrived, Flintoff’s career was clearly in the process of winding down, but that did not stop him taking a five-wicket haul at Lord’s in the second Test. Persistent ankle and shoulder injuries suggested we had seen the last of Flintoff after his retirement but, never one to disappoint, there is surely another twist in the tail to come in his second spell with the Lancashire Lightning.
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