Vaughan hails Flintoff brilliance
Michael Vaughan hailed the man of the match performance of Andrew Flintoff in keeping England’s hopes alive of regaining the Ashes after a dramatic two-run win over Australia in the second npower Test at Edgbaston.
Skipper Vaughan admitted that England “would not have come back” had they gone 2-0 down in the five game series after the Aussies came so close to pulling off a nailbiting victory.
In a gripping finale, Michael Kasprowicz was caught down the legside by wicket-keeper Geraint Jones off Stephen Harmison, after a last-wicket stand of 59 with Brett Lee.
But the star of the show was Flintoff who scored 68 and 73 and picked up seven wickets in the match.
Vaughan said: “To beat Australia you need a really good team performance, which we had, but you also need individual brilliance and Freddy’s performance throughout the whole Test has been outstanding.
“I’ve not seen a better all-round performance in a Test from Freddie (Flintoff) than that. He has had some outstanding performances for us over the last couple of years but to do it against Australia certainly is a fantastic achievement.
“He didn’t score a 100 or get five wickets in an innings, but the two scores he made really gave us momentum and the last-wicket stand of 51 with Simon Jones in the second innings was the real momentum swing in the game.
“We could have been looking at around 230 to defend. To get it up to 280 swayed the momentum back into our favour and Freddie gives us a real belief to go out there and bowl and get some wickets.
“His spell on Saturday night was fantastic when he got two wickets in that first over. There were so many twists and turns in the game but both the last-wicket partnership and the first over that he bowled were real turning points.”
Vaughan praised his side for holding their nerve as Lee, who finished unbeaten on 43, and Kasprowicz edged nearer to their 282 target and he is aware of the significance of levelling the series after a 239-run defeat at Lord’s.
He said: “I don’t think we would have come back from 2-0 down against a team like this, the number one side in the rankings. It is fantastic to get back to 1-1.
“To get over the line is a real good boost. It sets the series up fantastically well. The most important thing now is to take this momentum into the third Test and start well again on Thursday at Old Trafford.”
Vaughan admitted: “It was tight and the pressure was there but I felt that we were going to create opportunities and I was making sure the boys all realised we were one mistake from winning.
“When we got Shane Warne out at 220, I always felt we were one ball away from victory but towards the end they were playing nicely and it was looking as if we weren’t going to get over the line.
“The fielding team are under pressure when a team gets near to a total - but the batsmen are also under pressure as well. We created a hard chance at third man which we didn’t quite take.
“But I always felt there would be another opportunity and we would be good enough to take it. We held our nerve and it was a fitting end to a great game of cricket.
“I thought the 99 lead we had in the first innings was crucial. We felt the wicket was going to get harder and we just had to give ourselves an opportunity to bowl Australia out in the second innings.
“They came out and bowled very well. Brett Lee and Shane Warne put us under a lot of pressure in our second innings but we have got over the line.
“I asked the boys before this game, ‘could we show some character and bounce back from Lord’s?’ It is fantastic that we have done that and now we have to try for something similar in Manchester.”
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting praised the efforts of Lee and Kasprowicz in almost rescuing a lost looking cause and insisted that his side could be in an upbeat frame of mind for the third Test.
He said: “That is the most nerve-wracking end to a Test I have played in. We had a great win against Pakistan a few years ago in Hobart when Adam Gilchrist got us home when we were out of the game completely.
“This game is right up there with any game of cricket I’ve played in and that includes tied World Cup semi-finals and all that sort of stuff.
“I feel pretty proud of the way we have played over the last couple of days. There are a couple of batters in there in Brett and Michael who feel quite shattered at the moment.
“But all of the guys have made it really clear to them that we are really happy with what they have done, the way they stood up under intense pressure to guys bowling at 90 miles per hour and to combat it the way they did was outstanding.
“We’ve got very close to pulling off an unbelievable win and we haven’t quite got there but I actually feel quite happy at the moment.
“I was disappointed when you see the ball ballooning off the glove down the legside and the game is taken away from you, but we can take a lot out of this game, especially what has happened over the last two days.
“Hopefully that can spur us on to playing some better cricket in the third Test when we will look for our top-order batsmen to score more runs.”