Following months of speculation, it has now been confirmed that Andrew Flintoff will make a return to cricket, five years after retiring from the sport.
The all-rounder will make his comeback with his home county of Lancashire, and he will represent them in the Natwest T20 Blast this summer.
Prior to making a full comeback to first-class cricket, the 36-year-old will participate in a couple of warm-up matches.
Firstly he will represent his boyhood club, St Annes, who play in the Northern League, before playing for the Lancashire second XI. That will precede his much-awaited return to our television screens.
Next Friday’s (June 6) Roses match against Yorkshire is being highlighted as the return date after Flintoff made the move official by signing a playing contract.
Lancashire sit top of the northern group of the T20 Blast, four games into this year’s competition. With Flintoff available for the remaining 10 matches, it will be interesting to see if they can maintain their place at the summit of the standings.
The former Ashes winner had a glittering career that was sadly hampered by long-term injuries, eventually forcing him into premature retirement.
The MCC vs Rest of the World match to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lord’s cricket ground was the initial incentive for the man who made his professional boxing debut back in 2012.
But Flintoff wasn’t selected amongst such greats as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Shane Warne for the exhibition game in St John’s Wood at the beginning of July.
Nevertheless, the training that he undertook with Lancashire to return to fitness has opened the door for a county cricket reprieve.
Instead of just playing in a charity match, Flintoff now has the opportunity to play in up to 10 T20 group games, as well as any subsequent knockout stage contests.
Emulation of Lancashire veterans like Brad Hogg, Glen Chapple and Brad Hodge – who have continued to excel into their late 30s and early 40s – will be the main driving force.
The signing is great news for Lancashire, who can expect to witness a spike in crowd interest whilst arguably England’s best player in the last decade returns for a swan song.
Injury is the main concern that could hinder Flintoff once again, and shatter his dreams of regularly wowing large cricket audiences.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Sport, the seamer explained that he is still hassled by pain: “When I’m bowling, it still hurts a bit, but I’m loving running into bowl and if I can take that into a game I might be quite dangerous.
“I’m playing for the reasons that I first started playing cricket, because I love the game and I enjoy it.”
The 36-year-old certainly hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm, and now we only have to wait a little while longer before we see Freddie Flintoff padding up once again.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU