IT’S OVER AND OUT

Iconic all-rounder and Ashes hero forced to quit after doctors warn his knee will never recover

ANDREW Flintoff, the hero of England’s 2005 and 2009 Ashes triumphs, yesterday brought down the curtain on a glorious career after conceding defeat in his long battle with knee injury.

All-rounder Flintoff, whose off-field antics contributed to his mythology almost as much as his talismanic performances, announced his retirement from all forms of the game after consulting doctors this week.

Saying he felt “both disappointment and sadness” at the decision, the iconic 32-year-old added: “Having been told that my body would no longer stand up to the rigours of cricket, I had no alternative but to retire.”

Preston-born Flintoff, known affectionately as Freddie, played 79 Tests, scoring 3,845 runs at an average of 31.77, including five centuries, and took 226 wickets at 32.78. He famously shone in the two victorious home Ashes series, and infamously had to be rescued at sea after drunkenly commandeering a pedalo at the 2007 World Cup.

His career had been in serious doubt since he quit Test cricket after helping England reclaim the Ashes in 2009, in a bid to ease the burden in his injury-plagued body and thereby prolong his playing days. Flintoff always maintained his desire to play limited-overs matches for Lancashire, as well as other franchises around the world, and had targeted a return to England’s one-day side.

But a summer return for his county was abandoned and hopes of playing Twenty20 cricket in Australia and New Zealand during the winter disintegrated with a grave assessment from his surgeon in Glasgow on Wednesday.

“The decision’s been made for me,” he added. “I really thought I’d have another two or three years playing at Lancashire especially. But it’s just not to be. There was always that hope I was going to get back so there was always something to work for.

“That’s gone now. I’m no longer a cricketer. It’s something I’m going to have to deal with.”

FLINTOFF | THE STATS IN FULL

BATTING

Tests
Matches: 79
Runs: 3,845
Average: 31.77
50s: 26
100s: 5
High: 167

ODIs
Matches: 141
Runs: 3,394
Average: 32.02
Strike rate: 88.82
50s: 18
100s: 3
High score: 123
BOWLING

Tests
Matches: 79
Wickets: 226
Average: 32.78
5 wickets: 3
10 wickets: 0
Best: 5-58

ODIs
Matches: 141
Wickets: 169
Average: 24.38
Econ Rate: 4.40
5 wickets: 2
Best: 5-19

THE TRIBUTES

“The impact he has had on English cricket has been immense. 2005 was his zenith. But he was always the ultimate impact cricketer.”
Andrew Strauss, England captain

“Great entertainment playing and captaining him. The man had the ability to clear the bars. Fred had an unbelievable ability to put six bottles of beer in his mouth at once, and down the lot. Quite incredible.”
Michael Vaughan, former captain

“It's a sad day for English cricket. He’s been an inspirational character, not just for Lancashire, not just for England, but for children growing up and for his team-mates as well.”
Steve Harmison, England bowler

“Freddie a true champion, and a gentleman with it. Very rare, I'll miss watching him play.”
Darren Gough, England team-mate

“Of all the people that have been tagged ‘the next Botham’ he carried the tag the best. History will regard him as one of the finest all-rounders.”
Mike Atherton, former captain

“He was a great guy on and off the field and a great competitor. The game of cricket will miss him. Also hated facing him – quality bowler, especially at left-handers like me.”
Graeme Smith, South Africa captain

“His Herculean efforts for England in the two Ashes series will be cherished by cricket fans forever.”
Jim Cumbes, Lancs chief executive

“Andrew Flintoff was one of the most naturally gifted cricketers ever to wear an England shirt.”
Hugh Morris, England team MD