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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
The Master Blasters
By James Standley

Andrew Flintoff surveys his wrecked bat on Sunday
Flintoff did irreparable damage to his bat against South Africa
How hard does England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff hit the ball?

Well, hard enough to make it look as though he had used an axe to split his bat right down the middle during England's innings defeat by South Africa on Sunday.

When Flintoff mistimed a drive against South African fast bowler Makaya Ntini, the sheer force of the shot split his blade clean in two.

There have been some mighty hitters in cricketing history, but it may just be that Flintoff, who blazed his way to 142 on Sunday, hits hardest of them all.

Here, the BBC Sport website examines the greats of the game and sees where Flintoff stands in the pantheon of destructive batsmen - the Master Blasters.


1. Sir Vivian Richards

Sir Vivian Richards pictured in 1998
Viv Richards was an intimidating presence at the crease
The dominant batsman of the 1980s, Richards was the original Master Blaster.

A fierce, hawkish presence at the crease, the West Indian great was the whirling blade at the heart of many a great Test performance by the awesome Windies sides that dominated cricket for 20 years.

A mighty striker of the ball and flamboyant shot-maker, Richards is one of the finest players in the history of the game.

MASTER BLASTER RATING
Power 8
Skill 9
Aggression 8
Match-winning ability 8
Total 33/40
Test average 50.23
Test runs 8540
Strike rate n/a

Some batsmen could match his power, some his array of shots, but very few could match the skill and ability that makes him one of a select few to average more than 50 in Tests.

Finest moment: Hitting the fastest Test ton in history as he flayed the England attack in 1985-86, reaching three figures in a staggering 56 balls.


2. Adam Gilchrist

Gilchrist may have the higher average but he is edged out by Richards because the West Indian carried a bigger weight of responsibility and arguably faced more testing bowling.

Kept out of the Australian team by Ian Healy until he was 27, Gilchrist wasted no time in showing that he is the most exciting batsman in the world today.

MASTER BLASTER RATING
Power 7
Skill 8
Aggression 9
Match-winning ability 7
Total 31/40
Test average 58.80
Test runs 2940
Strike rate 82.65

A gloriously clean striker, the wicket-keeper bats, like Flintoff, at number seven in the Australian Test side.

With a Test average well over fifty after 45 Tests, he is clearly much more than just a flash in the pan.

And when he walks out to bat, opposition bowlers know they are in for a torrid time.

Finest moment: Hitting the then-fastest Test double century, against South Africa in Johannesburg in February 2002, beating Botham's record.


3. Ian Botham
Ian Botham essays a massive hook during his match-winning innings against Australia in 1981
Botham was not afraid to open his shoulders when batting

Flintoff is just the latest in a long line of England all-rounders to have to live with the tag of "the new Botham".

Botham, a great friend of Richards, was at his swashbuckling best during the 1981 Ashes series against Australia.

A rumbustious, big-hitting batsman with a penchant for hooking fast bowlers into the grandstand, Botham single-handedly won several matches for England.

MASTER BLASTER RATING
Power 8
Skill 7
Aggression 8
Match-winning ability 7
Total 30/40
Test average 33.54
Test runs 5200
Strike rate 60.71

A wild-card off the field who loved to let his hair down, Botham dominated English cricket for over a decade and remains a legendary figure in the game.

Finest moment: Belting 149 not out as England followed on against Australia in 1981 at Headingley. Despite being 500-1 to win, England, inspired by Botham, claimed a shock victory.


4. Andrew Flintoff

A couple of years ago, the likeable lad from Preston was renowned more for his pie-eater physique than his cricketing deeds.

Although undeniably talented, Flintoff took time to mature, but in the last 18 months he has become an integral part of the England side, confirmed by his 146-ball 142 on Sunday.

MASTER BLASTER RATING
Power 9
Skill 6
Aggression 9
Match-winning ability 4
Total 28/40
Test average 23.22
Test runs 836
Strike rate 70.48

During that innings, he showed that he might just hit the ball harder than any man in the history of the game.

Although he has great timing to go with his immense power, he is not yet a match-winner in the class of the other Master Blasters, but time is on his side.

Finest moment: His second Test century on Sunday. England may have been hammered but at least Flintoff went down with all guns blazing.



Links to more Eng v SA 2003 stories


 

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