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  Monday, 4 February, 2002, 13:15 GMT
England's bare necessity
Andrew Flintoff celebrates victory in Bombay
Flintoff led England to victory by sheer force of character
BBC Sport Online's Martin Gough looks at the latest incarnation in the career of England's biggest character, Andrew Flintoff.

After delivering a yorker that ripped out Javagal Srinath's middle stump, the burly Andrew Flintoff ripped off his shirt and cavorted around the Wankhede Stadium, to the delight of his team-mates.

A great team effort was responsible for England's return from 3-1 down to a drawn one-day series in India.

But it was the sheer force of one larger-than-life individual that finally swung the final match in England's favour, leading the tail after a middle-order collapse and being responsible for three wickets at the death.


It was very frustrating doing well with the ball and not being able to match that with the bat
Andrew Flintoff
- January
All three performances - with bat, ball and in celebration - brought to mind the high-profile antics of one I.T. Botham.

It is a comparison that Flintoff must have grown used to since his international debut in the summer of 1998, but views on his role within the England set-up have rarely reached the heights of star batsman and star bowler.

In a stop-start career, which has spanned just three-and-a-half years, the Lancastrian has been viewed as 'bits and pieces' player then simply as a specialist batsman.

And, following his poor form at the crease in India, he could even have been described as a specialist opening bowler.

Expensive

Flintoff debuted against South Africa as a burgeoning all-rounder and, despite a lack of runs, wickets and one-day experience, was marked as England's great hope for the 1999 World Cup.

A much-awaited one-day debut against Pakistan in Sharjah only served to whet appetites further as he crashed a half-century from 51 deliveries.

Ian Botham in a similar state of undress
Comparisons with Ian Botham are inevitable
But he was given little opportunity with the bat as England dropped out of the World Cup - too low down to order to get in against the lesser teams and failing in crucial meetings with South Africa and India.

He proved expensive with the ball in the one-day game and, although impressively pacey, struggled to take wickets when given rare chances in the Test arena.

His bulky frame, combined with some much-publicised excess weight, caused back and knee injury problems, with doctors advising him to give up bowling.

And, by the time he captured the imaginations of international spectators again - with a spectacular innings of 86 from just 60 deliveries against Pakistan in Karachi - he was simply a big-hitting lower order batsman.

With all-round skills at a premium, Flintoff was an increasingly unaffordable luxury as England began to plumb the depths of one-day cricket, losing 11 consecutive matches through last summer.

New model

Instead, Flintoff went back to Old Trafford and worked on a more fluid bowling action to reduce the impact on his joints.

And the contrast between the tentative medium pacer who began the county season and the aggressive pace bowler who bullied India's best batsmen before Christmas proved his rapid transformation.

Flintoff bowling
A new action brought bowling success
He had not even been named in the original Test squad, but doubts over Craig White prompted a call to the England Academy in Adelaide, where Rod Marsh was putting a new, lean Flintoff through his paces.

Unfortunately, there was an equally marked contrast between the 24-year-old's success with the ball and the miserable form at the crease that saw him total 26 runs in five innings.

"I couldn't even spell batting when I was out there," Flintoff said on his return home.

"I don't think it would have mattered who was bowling at me - I was just going through a really lean time.

"It was very frustrating doing well with the ball and not being able to match that with the bat, but at the same time at least I was making a contribution to the side through my bowling."

One-day finisher

His new bowling action had already brought economy in the one-day game, with Flintoff becoming a vital tool in slowing India's run rate as the 15-over fielding restrictions were relaxed.

But that poor form with the bat continued as the one-day series began, Flintoff still looking out of his depth as he tried to make quick runs against India's spinners.

Flintoff batting
Flintoff has been groomed as a lower order finisher
Captain Nasser Hussain and coach Duncan Fletcher initially resisted calls to move him up the order, where he could settle first against the pace men.

Hussain has said repeatedly that England need to develop finishers, to set up a high first innings total with quick runs late on, or to lead the side home in a run chase.

But a chance batting second wicket down in the fifth match in Delhi brought a half-century and, back in the number seven spot three days later, Flintoff began to fulfill the latest role assigned to him.

The Flintoff of old would have taken a position of 174 for seven in the 30th over as a challenge to be attacked like a raging bull.

The new man was equally forceful in his actions, but his innings of 40 included just five boundary balls as he led England's tailenders to reach a challenging 255 all out.

Hussain and Fletcher have both spoken of the need for character in the side, and it is his outstanding will to win that has kept Flintoff on the fringes of the team even when there were doubts as to his role.

His big-hitting and fiery bowling may draw comparisons with Botham at his best.

But it is his ability to make things happen, by sheer force of character - and his exuberant celebration of those achievements - that makes Flintoff appear the heir to a sizeable throne.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff
"The guys today were awesome - it's a great feeling"
News and features on England's tour to India

One-day series

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