Superstar Freddie calls time on Test cricket

• Injury-hit Flintoff, 31, says Ashes series is his last
• All-rounder quits for 'own sanity' after knee scare

Only four years after his part in a career-defining Ashes victory made him the biggest English cricketing superstar since Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff yesterday admitted the current series would be his last in order to "save his sanity" after a spate of debilitating injuries.

The England all-rounder, 31, whose prowess with bat and ball and no-nonsense image have secured him a profile that few cricketers can match, said his latest knee injury scare on the eve of the today's second Ashes Test at Lord's was his body's way of telling him to give up the longer form of the game.

"Excuse the pun, but it's not a kneejerk reaction, it's something I've been thinking about for a while," he said. "For my own sanity I can't keep going through rehabilitation, I think I've done two years in the past four, just rehab all the way."

Since that triumphant Ashes victory captured the nation's imagination in the summer of 2005, Flintoff's body has been ravaged by a series of injuries. He will continue to play for England in the one-day and Twenty20 forms of the game. Meanwhile, his contracts with Lancashire and Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League both have a year to run.

While his all-action style, straight talking and fondness for a pint made him a hero to the Barmy Army and a totemic presence on the pitch, it did not always endear him to all in the dressing room.

Away from the pitch, a series of incidents – from a drunken escapade with a pedalo in the Caribbean in 2007, which saw him stripped of the vice-captaincy, to a more recent alarm clock malfunction just before the first Ashes Test – have prompted a once unthinkable debate about his place in the team.

Even in calling time on a Test career that has been blighted by injury since the 2005 Ashes, Flintoff courted controversy. Doing so on the eve of the second Ashes Test, will be questioned by some. But his captain, Andrew Strauss, was quick to pay tribute and highlight the effect that Flintoff, nicknamed Freddie after the Flintstones character, has had on the game. "He has been a great asset … He brought a new audience to the game. He could be inspirational on the pitch. He will be missed."

His heightened profile brought Flintoff into the world of tabloid celebrity. But he has repeatedly admitted his unease at the level of attention.

He said yesterday he had no regrets and vowed to play through the pain barrier if necessary in an effort to go out on a high. "Over the next few weeks, I will do anything to get out on the cricket field."


Owen Gibson, sports news correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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