Martyn Corrin | 8:34pm gmt 07 Jul 2009
I'm a Freddie Flintoff fanboy. Everyone knows it. When my twins were close to being born, even though I knew they were both girls I was still asked if they would be called 'Andrew' and 'Freddie'. But in the lead-up to this series, I have really tried to stay quiet on the Freddie front, just making the odd reference here and there to him, rather than talking about him non-stop.
But you know what? I just can't do it. The Ashes are nearly here and I need to talk about Freddie, because everybody knows he can win the Ashes for us again.
The pressure is off Freddie this time round. When people talk about our bowling, they talk about Anderson and Swann. Rightly so, they are in fine form and if they continue bowling the way they have done so far in 2009, they will take plenty of wickets. This is a good thing. England have struggled in recent years when Flintoff is all we had. It's no secret that Flintoff has functioned best when other bowlers have been doing their jobs fantastically. Not just in that series in 2005, but the couple of years leading up to it.
Additionally, the expectation of him with the bat is low. It has been low for quite some time, but this time there is a difference and that is that he will not be batting in the top six. Flintoff will bat at seven. Some of his best innings have come batting with the tail and it should not be underestimated how much more freedom he has to go out there and play when not part of the top six. My favourite (and I suspect many others agree) Freddie innings is the one from the second innings at Edgbaston four years ago, where he flayed the Aussies to all parts of Birmingham whilst batting with lower-order batsmen of the magnitude of Harmison, Hoggard and Simon Jones. He also produced some fine innings alongside Geraint Jones, a batsman arguably of equal or lower stature to Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, both of whom Flintoff should spend plenty of time out in the middle with this summer.
In recent weeks his batting has seemed to take an upturn of sorts. He has showed signs of feeling a little bit more free with the blade, and if he can carry this into the Ashes he will be dangerous. For all the jibes that he is a tailender these days, and for all the jibes that he will never take wickets consistently, Australia know full well that if Flintoff hits the ground running that they will be in a scrap. People often say "Flintoff has done nothing since the Ashes in 2005". These people missed his brilliance in India the following year, they missed his mindblowing spell at Edgbaston last year against South Africa. Figures and statistics are thrown around like nobody's business in cricket, but it matters not what Flintoff's averages are if he gets going, and you have to believe that in this series, he will. It might well be his last chance to be a hero one more time, and he will want nothing more than to take that chance.
Andrew Flintoff will wake up tomorrow morning and have his usual breakfast (a large, live animal, washed down with petrol). He will then head to Sophia Gardens and tear the Aussies to shreds. You know it makes sense, and you know that he will.