Andrew Flintoff may have been unable to lead Lancashire to success in the T20 Blast final against the Birmingham Bears, but his comeback must be judged a success nonetheless.
Star of the show
Unsurprisingly, the former England hero stole the limelight on Finals Day at Edgbaston, taking the wicket of Ian Bell with his first ball and hitting two successive sixes with the bat.
With Stephen Parry on strike for the final two balls, the Red Rose were unable to get over the line. Had Flintoff had the final say, things may have been different, as he looked characteristically confident at the crease.
In truth, he – and Lancashire – were fortunate that he appeared in the final at all. Having been dropped for the semi-final against Hampshire – which the Lightning won by 41 runs on Duckworth Lewis – he made a triumphant return for the final hurdle, in place of Kabir Ali, who ended the evening with his wrist in a sling.
Overall, Flintoff’s comeback has not only been a success for the romantics of the game, but also on a personal note, and for the fans of T20 most of all.
This year’s T20 Blast has raised questions about attendance figures, and almost regardless of his performances, Flintoff was tasked with adding more glamour to the inaugural competition.
He was linked with a return long before it actually materialised, but the anticipation surrounding his comeback brought an added edge to the start of the tournament.
That he was subsequently in and out of the Lancashire side is testament to both the strength of their squad, and to coach Glen Chapple. The Lightning have coped well with Peter Moores’ departure to take up the reins with England for the second time, but were able to facilitate Flintoff’s return at the same time.
Indeed, Flintoff was no doubt able to serve as a mentor to some of Lancashire’s younger, more inexperienced players.
Despite not playing a competitive game for five years, his exploits in the 2005 Ashes with England mean he is treated with the same affection as during his original stint with Lancashire. After his first game against Worcestershire, he declined to be interviewed by the media, choosing not to overshadow the team’s performance.
The man who once captained England (albeit only very briefly), having drifted in and out of different pursuits – including celebrity boxing – since retirement, it looks as though he has paved the way for a career back in cricket. It is unclear whether this will truly be his last hurrah, but – though strange to say of a player of a 36-year-old – he certainly has the potential to continue, at least as a fringe player going into next season.