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Freddie by Tim Ewbank

Release date: 06th June, 2005
Publisher: Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
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Freddie: The biography of Andrew Flintoff
By Tim Ewbank
Blake Publishing price: £12.59 (Saving £5.20 on cover price)

It is nearly a quarter of a century since Ian Botham, in tandem with Bob Willis, destroyed an Australian side in one of cricket's most memorable Test matches at Headingley. That famous duel provided the perfect platform for Botham to launch himself into the affections of a nation. His swashbuckling style, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness endeared him to cricket fans everywhere; even the Aussies eventually showed him a grudging respect.

Ever since Botham's retirement, English cricket has been searching for a 'new Botham', but no-one has yet assumed the great man's distinctive mantle.

Recently at the Rose Bowl, the stage was set for Andrew Flintoff as he strode to the crease to face Australia in the first ever Twenty/20 game between England and the tourists. The effect of Flintoff striding across Hampshire's lush green surface was as it always is: tardy imbibers at the bar hurriedly downed their drinks and scurried to catch a glimpse of England's heavy artillery. On this occasion, with just six runs on the board, Freddie failed to clear mid-wicket and was caught off the bowling of Michael Kasprowicz. As he trooped back to the pavilion, one felt a brooding Flintoff would have more to contribute in the summer's Test series.

In truth, Botham's greatness may never be surpassed, but as this hugely enjoyable biography asserts, Andrew Flintoff has all of the attributes to make him a cricketing superstar in his own right. Moreover, while Twenty/20 is the equivalent of a nibble provided with the chef's compliments and the current NatWest Series a tasty appetiser, the main course arrives when England meet Australia at Lords in the first Test.

I first saw Flintoff play for England against Zimbabwe in a one-day international in 2000 when he smashed 42 not out from 45 balls. His style and power that day were in the same league as Viv Richards in his prime. Quite rightly, he won the man of the match award, one he received graciously and with no little humour, commenting that it was "Not bad for a fat lad", a reference to the criticism he had endured from some quarters who felt he was carrying a few pounds too many.

As this book highlights time and again, fitness and injury have been Flintoff's unwanted but constant companion during his playing career, which has ensured that despite playing 45 times for his country, he has never faced Australia in a Test match. Tim Ewbank makes a solid point, however, when he says that a fit Flintoff's presence provides the selectors with options to choose either another spinner or seamer, ostensibly because he is a genuine all-rounder.

In addition to profiling his undoubted cricketing prowess, Ewbank succeeds in showing Flintoff as the uncomplicated, affable and decent bloke he is, a man whose generosity is legion. Ever since being roped in to play in his brother Chris's under-14 side at the age of six, while wearing a Manchester United tracksuit, Freddie admits to having been in love with the game. He is now 27 and if the Botham mantle is to be passed on to the big Lancastrian, this summer's Tests would provide the ideal backdrop for the handover.

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