He may have been named Andrew when he was born in Preston on December 6 1977,, but England’s cricketing star is just as well known as ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. His fast bowling, hard hitting and straight talking style make Flintoff a popular sportsman. Today he is considered one of the best all-rounders in the game, being both a superb right-handed batsman and fast bowler.
Cricketing is in Andrew Flintoff’s blood - his father, Colin played for local Preston club Whittingham, and his brother Chris also played. When he was watching his son play against the West Indies in 2004, Colin came very close to catching a six Andrew Flintoff smashed into the stand where he was sitting when he had notched up 167 runs. “If I'd taken it he'd have been the first Test batsman to be caught out by his dad!" Flintoff senior later said.
A home grown talent, Flintoff grew up playing cricket for his county Lancashire. In 1995, at the age of 17, he made his debut for the adult county side, and four seasons later began playing for England. While the fame and glory of his international highs means a lot to the player, as a Preston lad, Flintoff knows where his roots are and takes his county cricket very seriously. Poor performances at county level cut deep and Flintoff cites his all time career low, on the Professional Cricketers’ Association website as losing the 2002 semi-final (of the last ever B&H Cup) to Warwickshire on the last ball, commenting: "It was in front of our home supporters as well, which made it even worse. For me that was the lowest point.”
After being named captain of England’s under-19 cricket team on their tour to Pakistan tour in 1996/7, Flintoff made his Test match debut for England when they faced South Africa in 1998. However, things did not run smoothly after his big break for England - weight and fitness problems meant that, while he impressed on occasion, the new boy was neither a permanent fixture for his country, nor for his county, Lancashire. Flintoff would occasionally silence his critics with some truly magical moments on the field though - one of the most memorable was when he hit a staggering 135 not out for Lancashire against Surrey in the 2000 Natwest Trophy quarter-finals.
During these early days, troughs followed the peaks of Flintoff’s career. One significant low came along during the England tour to India in 2001/2, when his batting form was poor. But jubilation followed when his bowling during the final over prevented India from scoring the 11 runs they needed to win and England saved the match.
A break from these ups and downs came in 2002 after Flintoff notched up his first test century. Happy days followed, with the young cricketer reaping the rewards of his improved fitness with consistently impressive performances, particularly during the tour of the West Indies in 2004, when he excelled both as a batsman (scoring another century in Antigua) and as a bowler (claiming five wickets in Barbados).
The 2005 Ashes onwards
This improved form reached its climax in England’s victory against Australia in 2005 in the Ashes series. During England’s campaign, Flintoff broke a record previously held by fellow all-rounder and English cricketing legend Ian Botham, hitting more than six sixes in an Ashes test match - he smashed five in the first innings and four in the following innings. A total of 402 runs and 24 wickets during the five match series propelled Flintoff to his current sporting star status.
After winning the Ashes in 2005, Flintoff and the team celebrated in style, with a victory parade in central London, swigging champagne on an open top bus and culminating in thousands of people celebrating with England’s cricketing heroes in Trafalgar Square. Flintoff was named in the honours list in 2006 with an MBE for his role in England’s victory.
This was followed in December 2005 with another accolade, when Flintoff became the first cricketer for 24 years to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year. His captain, Michael Vaughan, had nothing but praise for Flintoff: “He's had an incredible year and he came close to winning it last year. He really has performed to an amazing level and was a real key part of why we won the Ashes this summer.”
Flintoff’s lucky roll continued as he was made captain of the England team during the test match against India in 2006 and led his team again in the 2006 Ashes series. Unfortunately, another victory against the Aussies was not to be - in fact, Flintoff led his team to five straight defeats and the Ashes returned to the antipodeans.
Michael Vaughan returned to captain the England team after recovering from injury, during the 2007 World Cup, with Flintoff as his vice captain. However, after a lacklustre performance, England were knocked out and Flintoff’s fitness became a major issue courtesy of a troublesome ankle injury. He didn’t improve his situation when, following England’s defeat, he and team mates drowned their sorrows and Flintoff had to be rescued after falling out of a pedalo in the early hours of the morning. Since then, Flintoff's career has sadly been dominated by injury problems. However, his worth to England is unquestionable, with it only being a matter of time before Freddie gets back to his best.
Flintoff has undoubtedly had his career ups and downs, caused both by personal fitness and by injury setbacks. Even so, the statistics of his career so far paint an impressive picture. For very detailed statistics and analysis, have a look at his Cricinfo Profile.
Flintoff has plenty to keep him occupied while he is recovering from injury. He married Rachael Wools in 2005 and the couple now have two children - Holly, born in 2004 and Corey, who arrived in 2006.