This week has seen a once in a lifetime event. As the spectacle unfolded those who were lucky enough to witness it were turning to those around them whispering of how, in years to come, they would tell the story that they were here. As this epic event reached its climax the spectators spontaneously rose in religious fervour and burst into rapturous applause.
I am not, however, talking about the Moon gliding across the Sun and entrenching those huddled on the ancient banks of the Ganges into more than 6 minutes of mid-day darkness. Rather I refer to the unforgettable events that unfolded on Monday morning in North West London.
After four days of epic Ashes cricket, England had negotiated themselves into a position to achieve the unthinkable; victory over that most ultimate of enemies, at the home of cricket, for the first time in 75 years. However, a massive stand between two typically resilient Aussie batsmen on Sunday night had given the visitors the faintest sniff of victory and seriously threatened the finger nails of England supporters.
In times of need there was nothing else for it; give Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff the ball. No matter that his knee is as crocked as Gordon Brown’s smile and about as stable as the flagging economies of the world, for this was Freddie’s hour. Retiring at the end of this series due to the knee problems that have plagued him throughout his career, he stood defiant against the Aussie onslaught, determined to lay into them one last time.
From the outset of that final morning, he pounded down the hallowed turf of Lord’s, slamming his arthritic knee into the ground and hurling that red cherry at 90mph straight at the Aussie batsmen. During an unforgettable 10 over spell, he broke a bat, hit Clarke on the helmet, and provided us with that most joyous of sights, scattered Aussie stumps. By the end of the game he had achieved his first (and sadly last) 5 wicket haul at Lord’s, becoming only the 6th player in over 125 years to have achieved that feat as well as notching up a hundred runs on the ground.
Now that you have indulged my boyish excitement, for there is nothing I enjoy more than watching the Aussie’s squirm, it’s about time I brought in the science. Despite the sheer defiant grit and determination of a cocky Lancashire lad, he had a little help from a very unlikely source; the intestines of horses.
After years of serving England and Lancashire his right knee might as well belong to an octogenarian. In order to play he has to have constant injections in the joint to reduce the inflammation that bowling so intensely summons. The England medical team inject him with Ostenil, which is effectively a lubricating liquid, made by purifying bacteria that is originally found in horse entrails.
Ostenil is a safer alternative to steroids, which normally pose a risk of more permanent damage to the muscles and ligaments they are trying to protect. Ostenil is basically a form of Hyaluronic Acid, you know that stuff beauty adverts are always trying to palm off on us. However, scientists make this stuff in the lab, based on the original bacteria from horse gut. Results of studies show that Ostenil is just as effective as steroids and pain levels are kept low for two days after the jab; perfect for Freddie to skittle the Aussies and put England into a 1-0 lead in the Ashes.
If England win the series and that little urn returns to English hands, no doubt it will be down to King Freddie, his buggered knee, and those horse gut injections that allow him his final swansong as a Test cricketer.