Great Cricket Drinking Episodes – No. 3: The Ashes 2005

So far in our series on cricket’s great boozing incidents, we’ve seen Ian Botham and chums have a massive Ashes piss-up and David Boon enjoy a relaxing flight to the UK.

The man, the legend…

With the rise of sports nutritionists and central contracts, we’ve seen a slight thinning out of cricketers who were also notable pissants. Then along came a big lad from Preston (who was genuinely pretty large at the start of his career). We’re not talking about Fredalo here (although we could do an entire article on that), nor the time when Mr Flintoff turned up to training drunk – we’re going back to the piss-up which began it all for Fred – the Ashes in 2005.

It was quite understandable that they should want to celebrate – after all, if we’d just won one of the greatest prizes in sport after 18 years of trying and dismally failing, during which time it was a notable achievement to have won a single match in a series, we’d probably have a few beers as well. However, enter Freddie Flintoff, Ashes hero, destroyer of Antipodean dreams, a man who in days of animal skins and spiked clubs would have walked around wearing a necklace made of the teeth of his conquered enemies, and possibly a skull-cap made of Adam Gilchrist’s scalp. These were the days when (for our younger readership) Freddie was at the peak of his powers, before injury, depression and an apparent addiction to Red Bull took their toll.

Having scratched around, whilst writing the first two of these articles, for reliable information, it was a welcome relief to write about an event chronicled during the 24 hour news age. We can trace almost exactly what happened. Play finished at 6.15pm, when Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden removed the bails, a cue for wild and unbridled celebration. Champagne was, of course, immediately uncorked, and Freddie was quick off the mark, also getting a couple of beers down his throat with Steve Harmison, just to take the edge off his thirst.

Both sides engaged in a little light bingeing at the Oval until around 10.30pm, at which point the Australians, who, after all, didn’t have a whole lot to celebrate, slunk off with their tails between their legs. England returned to their hotel as well, which is where Freddie et al really started to move through the gears. At this stage, beer it seems was the tipple of choice – an understandable decision given the need to rehydrate after their exertions of the previous five days. According to Paul Collingwood MBE (then, of course, just ordinary Paul Collingwood before his mammoth total of 17 runs in the series led to his being honoured by the Queen), there was plenty of singing – ‘mostly Elton John’ apparently. What better way to enjoy a beer?

Around midnight, the party moved to Soho, specifically the nightclub Prophecy, which is apparently where the bulk of the £34,000 bill for the night was racked up (yes you did read that correctly). Once the need to dance had been totally satisfied – at around 3am, we are reliably informed – it was back to the hotel bar, where more beer and champagne was cracked open. During the course of the evening, a sum total of 170 Japanese beers (why Japanese?) were imbibed, which only comes out at a disappointing 14 beers per man. Freddie was still able to muster up some good banter though, reportedly being particularly excited about being granted the freedom of Preston – “it means I can drive a flock of sheep through the town centre, drink for free in no less than 64 pubs and get a lift home with the police when I become inebriated. What more could you want?”

Some players called it a night at that stage. After all, they had a big parade the next day (or rather, later that day). KP says he got to bed around 5am, Matthew Hoggard also apparently got some sleep, although he couldn’t remember when, and for some reason he slept on the floor. Not Freddie though. Oh no. Spotted by a BBC reporter having a G&T at 5.45am in the hotel bar, he continued in this vein, also clocking up a vodka and cranberry juice for variety.

If, at this point, you are thinking the session was coming to an end, you are, dear reader, sadly mistaken.

It is unclear whether Freddie went to bed at any stage. We’re not sure he knows himself – he talked later about “getting up this morning” but we can’t see when he would have done. Perhaps he had five minutes’ shuteye on a barstool somewhere.

Radio 4 wanted to speak to him, but wisely decided not to after discovering that he was almost incapable of speech. A little later, at around 8am, onlookers were stunned to see the great man drinking coffee. This lack of commitment didn’t last for long – a champagne breakfast at the hotel awaited. Freddie was the only England player to turn up. Poor show. Mike Gatting was there – he asked FF whether he had had anything to eat. “Yes” replied Flintoff, “a cigar.” Shortly afterwards, Neil Fairbrother (Flintoff’s manager) ordered him to shower because he didn’t smell entirely wholesome.

After that exertion, Freddie had a beer.

The whole team gathered for a champagne reception with the Lord Mayor of London at about just round the corner at Mansion House at about 10.30. Shortly afterwards, they filtered out again, where, in perhaps the most iconic moment of the extended session, Flintoff tripped on the step outside Mansion House and staggered blearily towards the waiting cameramen. No harm done. Onto the bus, where another 40 bottles of champers awaited. History doesn’t relate how much of that was consumed. All we can say is we hope there was a toilet on board, as presumably Flintoff’s bladder had undergone a serious workout since the last evening. Not that the absence of a toilet would have stopped him, as you’ll see later.

England arrived at Trafalgar Square at around 12.30. Sky, ever the cutting-edge broadcaster, boldly went where the BBC wouldn’t, and interviewed Freddie. David Gower hailed Flintoff – “Man of the Series. Man of the night, by the look of it.”

“If I’m being honest with you, David, I’m struggling. Not been to bed yet. The eyes behind these glasses tell a thousand stories.”

From Trafalgar Square, the lads were whisked off to Downing Street where Tony Blair, eager to get some quick publicity, was waiting. Flintoff had to be guided through the most famous door in Britain with the help of KP. Understandable. In fact, standing up was a serious achievement at this stage. Once inside, the players were offered a choice of pineapple juice and water. This clearly wouldn’t do. According to Matthew Hoggard, “someone had a quiet word, and soon enough some white wine appeared. It was a bit warm, but you can’t have everything I suppose.” Flintoff planted himself on the child’s swing in the rose garden.

So the story goes, Number 10’s facilities were not good enough for England’s hero, who instead took the au naturelle route and peed in a rose bush. Classy and sophisticated. For the record, Flintoff has sinced dismissed this tale as an “urban myth”, but we doubt very much he was in much of a position to say. There’s also a rumour that he threw up whilst at Downing Street, but that we really can’t corroborate.

England’s tiring day continued with a trip back to Lord’s at around 3pm. Flintoff was spotted sitting on a mower, and more champagne was drunk. Pretty tame, really.

At last, at long, long last, the celebrations neared their end. Vodafone put on some drinks at 6pm (by some, we mean another 50 bottles of bubbly and 100 bottles of beer) and England then headed off for their team dinner to celebrate some more. This was followed by 12 hours’ sleep and, we imagine, one of sport’s greatest hangovers. According to The Sun, Flintoff indulged in hair of the dog with some vodka for breakfast, we’re guessing just to keep his liver from getting complacent.

Michael Vaughan jokingly commented that after the Ashes win, “my next greatest challenge is to survive another night with Freddie.” We’re feeling pretty jaded just writing about it…

The binge was hailed as amongst the greatest in history. The Queen was so impressed that she gave Flintoff an MBE and the British public were so in awe that they named him Sports Personality of the Year. What a lad.

Bibliography

‘Boon’s Boozy Record Blitzed’ – Toby Forage, Fox Sports, 15/9/05

‘Ashes hero off his Fred’ – Lucy Hagan and Martel Maxwell – The Sun – 14/9/05

‘An old-fashioned kind of hero’ – Simon Hattenstone – The Guardian – 15/10/05

‘How Freddie survived his 24-hour binge’ – David Adam – The Guardian – 15/9/05

‘Flintoff drinks for England’ – Philippe Naughton – The Times – 13/9/05

‘Andrew Strauss’s England side to toast their success at Number 10 Downing Street with glass of water’ – The Daily Telegraph – 6/1/11

‘Reaction to England Ashes win’ – BBC Sport – 13/9/05

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3 Comments

  1. Great cricket drinking episodes, No 2 – David Boon smashes 52 not out in a session | Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans
  2. Great cricket drinking episodes, No. 1 – Headingley 1981 | Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans
  3. Great Cricket Drinking Episodes: 2013 round-up | Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans

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