I'll never forget how he haunted the Aussies in the 05 Ashes series.
Andrew Flintoff has announced his retirement from all cricket after giving in to his long-standing knee injury.
Flintoff retired from Test cricket after last year's Ashes victory and underwent knee surgery straight away. He hoped to return to action this season, but that was ruled out last month and he then aimed for Twenty20 stints in Australia and the IPL. However, his latest meeting with the surgeon has led to what has long seemed the inevitable decision.
"It is with both disappointment and sadness that I am today announcing my retirement from all forms of cricket," said Flintoff. "The decision to end my career came yesterday after consultation with medical advisers. I was told that the problems I have been trying to overcome in re-hab for the last year following the latest in a series of operations would not recover sufficiently to allow a comeback.
"Having been told that my body would no longer stand up to the rigours of cricket, I had no alternative but to retire," he added. "I would like to thank my family, Lancashire Cricket Club, England, all my sponsors, friends and advisers for all the help and support they have given me throughout my career.
"Last, but by no means least, I am indebted to the encouragement and support I have always received from England's magnificent supporters. I will now be taking a break before deciding which future direction to take."
England's captain, Andrew Strauss, gave a warm tribute to Flintoff ahead of the third ODI against Pakistan at The Oval, the scene of Flintoff's last hurrah in the 2009 Ashes, when his direct-hit run-out of Ricky Ponting turned the tide of the decisive fifth Test. "I would just like to say on behalf of the England team we would like to congratulate Andrew on an outstanding career," he said. ""The impact he has had on English cricket has been immense.
"Of course, it is a sad day when somebody like that can no longer keep playing. But we would prefer today to celebrate everything he has achieved as an England cricketer. "The biggest memories I will have of him are how incredibly able he was to make something happen out of nothing with both bat and ball.
"He was always the ultimate impact cricketer, somebody who on so many occasions stepped up to the plate. He would put his body on the line on flat wickets when other bowlers were maybe starting to struggle."
Flintoff finishes his career with a tally of 3845 runs in 79 Tests, at an average of 31.77 with five centuries and a best of 167 against West Indies at Edgbaston in 2004. He also claimed 226 wickets at 32.78, with three five-wicket hauls, the last of which came on an emotional final morning against Australia at Lord's in 2009. In 141 ODIs he finished with 3394 runs and 169 wickets respectively.
"Because of the way he bowled, and what he put into it, it was probably not as easy for him to get seven-fors and eight-fors," said Strauss. "But if you talked to other players around the world, they would always say Andrew was one of the bowlers they least wanted to face - because he could be so hostile. We are all striving to gain the respect of our peers. Andrew certainly did that."
Flintoff's former England team-mate, Graeme Swann, against whom he first played as a 10-year-old in the 1980s, admitted it was a sad day for English cricket, but suggested that the team had already moved on without him. "This team is bigger than any one individual, but it's nice when you do get an individual along whom the opposition fear and can win a game off their own back." he said. "I'm sure a lot of people around the country were looking forward to him coming back. If he can't, it's sad, but so be it."
"I haven't seen him for a while, so I don't know the extent of his injuries, but when you go a while without playing you start to think there's a reason for it," added Swann. "But it's a shame because any team with Fred in is a better side for it. But our team last year was very confident, and didn't need people going round and geeing up little quivering leaves in the corner."
The zenith of Flintoff's career was unquestionably the 2005 Ashes, in which he starred with bat and ball to topple the Australians and win back the urn after an 18-year hiatus. It was also, as Swann pointed, a summer that changed the profile of English cricket as a whole. "Itwas a pivotal moment for English cricket," he said. "The football was terrible at the time and everyone was watching cricket in a cracking summer.
"Suddenly Fred was a superstar and deservedly so for the way he played," added Swann. "He raised the profile of cricket, and out of the whole team he was the ultimate hero. He's always been the same, never shy to offer his opinion and be the playmaker of the team. That's why he was such a loveable rogue for the English public to get behind."
"I don't think anyone can put him up in the Botham stakes because Botham is the best allrounder we've had, but Fred changed the face of cricket if you like, because he's the first real celebrity that we've had for a long time. And that was all because he was a guy who could change the face of a game at the drop of a hat. His stats don't back that up, but everyone knows how world-class he could be on his day.