Andrew Flintoff finally made his long-awaited return to cricket as Lancashire beat Worcestershire by 60 runs in the Natwest T20 Blast.
Flintoff, who had not featured for the Lightning since for five years, took two wickets, first dismissing Tom Kohler-Cadmore, before sending Alexei Kervezee back to the pavilion (caught Karl Brown). Steven Croft and Kabir Ali also weighed in with two wickets apiece, while Junaid Khan then got the better of Ross Whitely.
Unfortunately, fan-favourite Flintoff did not get a chance to bat, listed to come in at number eight, but his team mates reached a phenomenal 229, losing just four wickets. Ashwell Prince top-scored with 68 off 43 balls, while wicket keeper and England hopeful Jos Buttler shone once again with the bat, hitting 55.
Worcestershire managed 179-7 in reply, but all eyes at New Road were on Lancashire’s returning hero. Flintoff was initially tipped to make his comeback in the Roses match of early June, which Yorkshire won in controversial circumstances. He had also been set to play on Friday against the Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston, before that game was called off due to rain.
However, with another month’s training under his belt, he was finally able to break into the Lancashire side, an achievement that proved more difficult than he had perhaps anticipated due to their fantastic run of form in the T20.
Replacing Arron Lilley in the line-up, he helped the away side to their seventh victory in nine games in the shortest form of the game.
The former England captain enjoyed a mixed, but generally warm reception on what was a relatively low-key comeback, and showed little sign of fatigue, or the ankle injuries that forced his career to end prematurely in 2010.
The result means Worcestershire have been knocked off the top spot of the North group.
As Lancashire look almost a certainty to make the quarter-finals, and quite possibly beyond, Flintoff displayed that he still has what it takes to be a key part of the side. Sceptics have dismissed his comeback as a cynical publicity stunt, but he has obviously been putting in the hours on the training ground to ensure he can still pull his weight at the top.
Elsewhere in the T20 Blast, former England wicket keeper Craig Kieswetter hit 60 as Somerset beat Hampshire by 39 runs, and Derbyshire continued their miserable season with defeat by five wickets at home to Leicestershire Foxes.
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