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Andrew Flintoff

There seemed to be no limit to what Andrew Flintoff could achieve in international cricket and he was hailed as “the best in the world” by Adam Gilchrist after helping England reclaim the Ashes in 2005.

Flintoff

The all-rounder's explosive talent - with bat and ball - made him arguably the most popular and widely recognised England cricketer for years - and he was named as the Vodafone England Cricketer of the Year for 2006.

His bowling ability came on leaps and bounds and possessing one of the safest pair of hands in the England cricket team, it was hard to pick fault with any aspect of his game.

After playing for England at every age level and captaining the Under 19 side, he made his county debut for Lancashire in 1995. By 1998 he was picked for England's last two Tests of the summer against South Africa at the age of 20.

In the winter he toured with the A side to Zimbabwe and South Africa and became part of England’s 1999 World Cup squad.

County cricket witnessed some of Flintoff’s most explosive batting moments which included a Roses match score of 160, of which 111 came before lunch, and a 61-ball century against Gloucestershire at Bristol which was the fastest hundred of the season.

Andrew Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff scored his maiden Test century on the 2002 tour of New Zealand © Getty Images

At the beginning of his international career he was beset with injury problems and has been forced to play as a primary batsman on occasions as in Pakistan in 2000-1, when he eventually had to miss the Test series after featuring in the one-day series.

In New Zealand in 2002 he made the crucial breakthrough of scoring his first Test century. The Christchurch Test featured a Flintoff classic with his 137 coming from only 164 balls faced.

His partnership of 281 with Graham Thorpe was crucial to the England cause and eased his side to victory. He followed this up with a quick-fire 75, from only 44 balls, in the next Test which added to his growing reputation.

In the summer of 2003 Flintoff continued to progress and he played two innings against South Africa that will be recalled for many years to come.

Firstly at Lord's he crashed a quick-fire 142 in a losing cause which included some of the cleanest striking of a ball since Ian Botham in his pomp.

More important for England was his 95 from 104 balls at The Oval during which he manipulated the strike magnificently and engineered a match-winning situation.

His fine form continued as he played a key role during England's successful tour of the Caribbean, including an unbeaten century in the fourth Test in Antigua.

On his return to England for the summer of 2004, he made a half-century in all three Tests as England whitewashed New Zealand before he smashed back-to-back centuries against New Zealand and West Indies in the NatWest Series despite an ankle injury forcing him to play as a specialist batsman.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff celebrates another ton

A thrilling 167 saw him win the man of the match award in the second npower Test against West Indies at Edgbaston and he then shone on his home ground of Old Trafford in the third Test.

He took six wickets in the match and hit an unbeaten 57 as England reached their target of 231 - the highest winning fourth-innings score at the ground - to win by seven wickets.

Flintoff also made 72 in England's 10-wicket victory in the fourth Test which completed a series whitewash and it was no surprise when he was named the home side's man of the series.

The Lancashire all-rounder continued his imperious form in the NatWest Challenge with India and saw England home by seven wickets in the first match at Trent Bridge with 34 not out.

England wrapped up the series in the second match at The Oval after Flintoff's 99 from 93 balls enabled the home side to set an imposing total of 307.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff was England's leading wicket-taker in the ICC Champions Trophy

The ICC Champions Trophy brought further success for Flintoff, who finished as England's leading wicket-taker with nine at just 14 runs apiece.

He also smashed 104 from just 91 balls against Sri Lanka to help England reach the semi-finals, where they beat Australia before losing to West Indies in the final.

Flintoff was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack five cricketers of the year in 2004 and Vodafone Player of the Year for England.

His life got even better when he became a father for the first time with the birth of his daughter Holly, and in the same week Flintoff was named as the world one-day player of the year at the International Cricket Council's inaugural awards dinner at the Alexandra Palace in London.

He returned to action in the first Test against South Africa when he took five wickets to help England record an eighth successive win for the first time in their history.

He also hammered 60 in the drawn second Test at Kingsmead, including three sixes to take his tally for 2004 to an incredible 21 from 13 Tests.

His efforts also saw him finish third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards behind Olympic gold medallists Kelly Holmes and Matthew Pinsent.

Flintoff's exploits continued in the third Test in Cape Town when he became the 10th English player to reach the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in Tests when he dismissed Herschelle Gibbs. Team-mate Ashley Giles also completed the feat earlier in the same match.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff celebrates the Test series win in South Africa

England went into the final Test needing only a draw for their first series victory in South Africa for 40 years, and Flintoff took six wickets as well as adding valuable runs as the tourists completed their mission.

It was then decided that Flintoff would miss the ODI series and return home for surgery on a troublesome bone spur in his left ankle to ensure his fitness for the 2005 Ashes series.

He returned for the home Test series with Bangladesh and although he did not get the chance to bat, contributed nine wickets as England won both games by an innings.

The NatWest Series involving Bangladesh and Australia witnessed Flintoff's best bowling performance since his operation, as he took 4-29 from nine overs against Bangladesh at Headingley - his second four-wicket haul in a one-day international.

His three wickets in the final against the Aussies at Lord's helped ensure the Ashes tourists were bowled out for the first time in four months and 11 ODIs - also the first time England had bowled out the world champions in an ODI for eight years - as the trophy was shared after a dramatic tie.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff claimed a four-wicket haul in the 2005 NatWest Series against Bangladesh © Getty Images

A tally of 12 wickets for the tournament saw him finish second behind Stephen Harmison in the wicket-taking stakes for England.

He also returned to form with the bat, making 87 in the second match of the NatWest Challenge at Lord's, his highest ever score against Australia.

After England lost the first Ashes Test, Flintoff hit the heights in the second Test with a man-of-the-match performance in England's sensational two-run victory at Edgbaston.

Flintoff backed up his first-innings half-century with 73 runs in the second during which he put on 51 crucial runs with Simon Jones for the last wicket.

He then took control with the ball and finished with 4-79 in Australia's second innings as England drew level in the series 1-1.

Flintoff consoling Brett Lee at the end of the game became one of the enduring images of the summer and said much about the character of the player.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff completes his maiden Ashes century at Trent Bridge

After a thrilling draw at Old Trafford, England went 2-1 up at Trent Bridge and Flintoff was man of the match again after completing his maiden Ashes century as well as taking three wickets.

Needing only a draw at The Oval to reclaim the Ashes, Flintoff made a vital 72 and then took five wickets to prevent Australia gaining a crucial first-innings lead.

England held on for the result they needed and the country went cricket mad, with Flintoff famously leading the celebrations.
He was named man of the series after finishing as England's leading wicket-taker with 24, as well as making 402 runs, and was the inaugural winner of the Compton-Miller Medal.

Simon Jones/Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff celebrates England reclaiming the Ashes

He was also named in both the Test and ODI sides to represent the ICC World XIs for the Johnnie Walker Super Series against Australia in October and awarded the freedom of his home city of Preston.

Flintoff’s position as the most valuable cricketer on the planet was rubber-stamped when he shared the ICC Player of the Year award with Jacques Kallis despite the qualification period excluding his outstanding performances in the last four Ashes Tests.

He was second to Kevin Pietersen for the one-day award and was named in both Test and one-day teams of the year. He also got up on stage to collect the Spirit of Cricket Award bestowed upon the Ashes winners.

The tour of Pakistan at the end of 2005 proved less successful, although Flintoff was England's leading wicket-taker once again with 13 as the three-match Test series was lost 2-0.

He then hit 72 and took 3-51 as England won the opening ODI but Pakistan battled back to take the series 3-2.

Andrew Flintoff

It was while out in Pakistan that the big Lancastrian was voted 2005 BBC Sports Personality of the Year (left), beating off competition from Ellen MacArthur (second) and Steven Gerrard (third). The England cricket team also won the Team of the Year award.

The recognition of his achievements continued when he received the freedom of his hometown of Preston and he then received an MBE in the New Year's Honours List.

Flintoff's importance to the side was highlighted on the tour of India in 2006 when, after Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick were forced to return home, he was named as England captain for the first time.

At the same time he announced he would stay for the full tour having originally planned to return home for the birth of his second child.

England drew the series 1-1 after claiming an impressive victory in the final Test in Mumbai.

He was named Vodafone Player of the Year for 2006 just hours before committing his future to Lancashire by signing a new five-year contract.

Flintoff again captained the Test team for Sri Lanka's tour but England were held to a 1-1 series draw.

Ricky Ponting & Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff holds the Ashes urn with Australia captain Ricky Ponting © Getty Images

He missed the complete 2006 tour of England by Pakistan due to an ankle operation but was then named as captain for the ICC Champions Trophy and the Ashes tour of Australia.

Flintoff stepped up his recovery in India playing as a specialist batsman in England's first two Champions Trophy matches before bowling for his country for the first time since June in the win against West Indies.

The Lancastrian was also awarded an ECB 12-month central contract until the end of the 2007 season.

He captained England during the 2006/7 Ashes series but struggled to impose himself due in part to an ankle injury.

Flintoff led England to victory in the Commonwealth Bank Series against Australia and New Zealand after Michael Vaughan suffered a hamstring injury midway through the tournament.

The all-rounder was subsequently named in England’s 15-man squad for the 2007 World Cup.

An injury-ravaged season and a third operation on his troublesome left ankle saw him in and out of the England side in the summer of 2007, although he was handed a 12-month central contract.

He was selected in the 15-man one-day squad to tour Sri Lanka in October 2007, only to be forced to withdraw after the problem flared up during the ICC World Twenty20.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff returned to top form in the NatWest Series against South Africa with 178 runs

Flintoff underwent surgery for the fourth time on his ankle on October 12, forcing him out of December's Test series in Sri Lanka and in New Zealand.

He returned to action for Lancashire in 2008 but a side strain kept him out of international action until the second npower Test against South Africa at Headingley Carnegie.

He picked up where he left off with the ball despite England’s 2-1 series defeat and rediscovered his batting form in the subsequent NatWest Series.

Awarded the man-of-the-series accolade, Flintoff struck two fifties and took 10 wickets to propel England to a 4-0 victory and third place in the ODI rankings.

He played in the inaugural Stanford Super Series and toured India, returning home with the squad following the Mumbai terror attacks before going back for the Tests.

In February 2009 he was bought by Chennai Super Kings for US$ 1.55million for the second edition of the Indian Premier League.

A hip injury then forced him to miss much of England's Test series with West Indies, but he returned for the one-dayers, claiming his best-ever ODI bowling figures of 5-19, including a hat-trick, in the final match as England clinched the series.

Flintoff played in Chennai's first three matches of the 2009 Indian Premier League but was forced to return to England for knee surgery. He was named in the hosts' squad for the World Twenty20 but did not recover in time to take part.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff runs out Ricky Ponting to swing the decisive Ashes Test back in England's favour

He returned for England in the Ashes opener at Cardiff but aggravated the knee injury and annouced he would retire from Tests following his involvement in the series.

Flintoff produced one of his most inspiring performance in the next match at Lord's, his five-wicket haul in the second innings putting England 1-0 up in the series.

His knee injured meant he was too much of a risk for the fourth Test at Headingley Carnegie where Australia levelled the rubber.

However, he returned for a victorious swansong in the Brit Oval decider where his most significant contribution was running out Ricky Ponting when Australia threatened to pull off a record chase.