Sydney: Australian fast bowler Brett Lee on Friday praised former rival Andrew Flintoff, who in the defining image of the 2005 Ashes series slung a consoling arm around the distraught Aussie paceman.
Lee said Flintoff may have jokingly whispered to him "one-one you Aussie bastard" when the photo was taken at the end of the Edgbaston Test, during which Lee fell agonisingly short of batting his side to victory.
"That might have been thrown in there. It's for general viewing, so I couldn't really make those comments here tonight," Lee told reporters in Sydney.
"Probably one of the most special moments in my career was that 2005 Ashes series and certainly that epic battle that we had at Edgbaston. Even though we lost, I'd still put that down as one of my favourite games, purely the way it was played in and the sportsmanship that was on show."
Flintoff ended his cricketing career on Thursday after medical advice that his right knee required a third opertation. Lee described the 32-year-old as "that lovable character."
"Not real lovable, though, when he's bowling 95 miles an hour at your ribs; I can testify to that," Lee said.
"He's just a guy that has just given his all, who's been great for world cricket, and his sportsmanship is just second to none. He's an absolute beauty."
Former Australian Test vice-captain Adam Gilchrist said he felt his own retirement was a day for celebration, as he praised Flintoff's grit and passion to win the Ashes.
"To hear someone say they're sad and disappointed tells me that it's been cut a bit shorter than he would have liked," Gilchrist told reporters.
"England owe him a lot because (of) 2005, where he just at all costs was going to deliver those Ashes for his country. I don't think his body ever really recovered from that, the sustained pressure that he put on himself and endured."