London:England cricketers, past and present, on Wednesday queued up to pay glowing tributes to all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who announced his retirement from Test cricket after the Ashes series.
Flintoff, who played a crucial role in England regaining the 2005 Ashes after an 18-year gap, has been plagued by a recurrent knee injury that forced him to quit Test cricket to prolong his one-day and Twenty20 career.
England captain Andrew Strauss admitted he saw it coming. "As players, we've had a feeling this was coming sooner rather than later with the injuries he's had over the last couple of years," Strauss said.
"Test match bowling puts so much pressure on his body that this seemed the logical thing to do," he said. Strauss, however, hoped Flintoff would give of his best in the last four Tests of the Ashes series and would like to go out with a bang.
"It's sad that he's made this decision at this age but maybe it will make him more motivated for the next four Tests. He wants to go out with a bang," he said.
The captain also sounded confident of Flintoff making the England starting XI in the second Test against Australia, beginning at Lord's from Thursday.
"We spoke to the medical staff and we would never play a guy in a Test if we didn't have a huge amount of confidence that he could get through," he said.
"He feels better the news is out there and with the injury surrounding this game he felt it was the right time." Former captain Graham Gooch felt Flintoff's retirement would be a huge loss for the country.
"It is a big loss for English cricket, because he has a presence about him. He's not been the biggest influence on all the Test matches he's played. But he does have a presence, and that brings others along with him," Gooch told 'BBC Sports'.
"He has the ability to be able to get big players out. Certainly that was shown at the height of his career when England won the Ashes in 2005," he added.
Another former skipper, Michael Atherton, though questioned the timing of Flintoff's decision.
"It's curious timing because obviously if Flintoff didn't play in this game (the second Ashes Test) and England did well and won, what do they do? Do they go back to Flintoff with the end of the series approaching when he's not going to be playing beyond that? It's not yet certain he'll get a grand finale or farewell," said Atherton.
The former captain, though, lauded Flintoff's contribution to England cricket.
"He has been a very good Test match cricketer, not a great one but a very good one who had a great series in 2005. His career's not over because he'll want to play some more one-day international cricket. I suspect he'll feel absolutely fulfilled," he said.