Andrew Flintoff bowls Jacques Kallis

Hear him roar: Flintoff's spell to Kallis brought back memories of another Edgbaston contest

Andrew Yates / © AFP/Getty Images

The top 20

The balls of the century, No. 15: Andrew Flintoff to Jacques Kallis

When fast is furious

Alan Gardner  |  

England v South Africa, Birmingham, 2008

As so often with the most memorable dismissals, context is everything. Without all the hoopla around Shane Warne's arrival as a legspin prodigy, who then fizzed his first ball in Ashes cricket past Mike Gatting's gormless grope, would we still be referring to it in such superlative terms nearly three decades later? Similarly with Andrew Flintoff's two Edgbaston showstoppers - spoiler alert: one of them also in a famous Ashes encounter - the build-up and lead-in all serve to heighten our experience of the ball itself.

In 2008, with South Africa seeking a first win in England since readmission, they came into the third Test, at Edgbaston, with a 1-0 lead. The series had been billed as a clash between the teams' two great allrounders, Flintoff and Jacques Kallis (although in the end they managed one fifty and one four-wicket haul between them). On the second evening, with South Africa coasting towards England's first-innings 231 four wickets down, Flintoff stoked the Brummie fires, much as he had done three years previously, in a ripsnorting spell against his ursine counterpart.

Over the course of two overs, Flintoff roared in with the crowd at his back. A yorker snuck through under Kallis' desperate jab, before he was set back by a steepling bouncer, and then struck plumb on the toe by another full-bunger… only for Aleem Dar to shake his head at the appeal. Incensed, Flintoff followed up in his next over with another searing bumper, a length ball that drew a play-and-miss, and then a howling thunderbolt of a yorker that angled in and curved away late to send off stump spinning like a toothpick in a gale. A fitting season finale to your new favourite box set.

Kallis was phlegmatic: "The one that got me out was a good nut. Fair play. It swung late and was in the right area. It was a good delivery."

There was a further layer to the dismissal, although one altogether more prosaic. A dark window above the sightscreen had caused Kallis to repeatedly lose sight of the ball at the release point of Flintoff's yorker (he was out in similar fashion, lbw to a full toss, in the second innings). England might have shrugged and called it the Hand of Fred… had Graeme Smith not ground context beneath his boot on the way to a series-sealing victory in the fourth innings.

The balls of the century

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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