Inspirational Flintoff takes the plaudits
England’s Ashes-winning captain Andrew Strauss thanked Andrew Flintoff for one final “moment of inspiration” to ensure the urn returned home.
It was Flintoff, largely ineffective with his two main all-round skills in his last Test appearance, who instead made a telling impact in the field, running out Ricky Ponting for 66 with a direct hit from mid-on when it seemed the Australia captain was mounting a dangerous fightback.
The ultimate outcome was a 197-run victory at the Brit Oval which sealed a 2-1 npower series success as England regained the Ashes in thrilling fashion.
But even in pursuit of a record 546 to win, Australia’s hopes had somehow become less forlorn as Ponting and Mike Hussey, who made 121, took their third-wicket stand to 127 midway through the fourth afternoon.
“It was that stage in the game. The ball was old, didn’t look like it was doing much for anyone, Ponting and Hussey were playing exceptionally well, and we needed a moment of inspiration,” Strauss recalled.
“We weren’t quite sure where it was going to come from. But you can’t keep ‘Fred’ out of the game, and that was an unbelievable bit of fielding which just set us in motion again.
“That’s the value of being a great all-rounder in so many different ways, with the bat and ball, great catch - or, in this instance, a fantastic run-out.”
Though Hussey stood firm for 263 balls - he was last man out at 5.47pm - England made short work of the tail, claiming the last five wickets for 21 runs.
Graeme Swann wrapped up an ultimately comfortable victory by having Hussey taken at short-leg, but Strauss admitted he endured his fair share of nervous moments.
“We went through so many emotions today - frustration, worry, despair at times when it didn’t look like we were going to take a wicket,” he said. “But to finish it off like we did, it’s an amazing day.”
England and Australia have been hugely inconsistent in a fluctuating series, never more so than when the hosts lost the fourth Test by an innings and 80 runs.
“This seemed a long way off after Headingley - and the guys had to dig very, very deep,” added Strauss, England’s man of the series with 474 runs.
“They’ve come out fighting, and it’s a special moment for all of us.”