Andrew Flintoff made his return to competitive cricket for Lancashire in the Natwest T20 Blast encounter against fellow table toppers Worcestershire yesterday. News of Flintoff’s cricketing comeback for Lancashire in the Natwest T20 Blast, five years after he had announced his retirement, emerged a few weeks ago and has had fans of the former England all-rounder captivated for some time, but Flintoff wasn’t getting his chance in the Lancashire playing XI. He might have been getting frustrated at having to wait in the sidelines, but his long wait came to an end yesterday.
Flintoff would have not only been pleased with his comeback to action but also the final outcome of the game. Not only did Lancashire complete a whopping 50-run win with impressive performances from Ashwell Prince and Jos Buttler which has sent them to the top of the table, but also by making 229/4 in 20 overs, surpassed their previous highest T20 score of 220/5.
Worcestershire won the toss in the high-profile clash and chose to insert Lancashire in. Lancashire’s two opening batsmen Tom Smith and Ashwell Prince got Lancashire off to an excellent start, by maintaining a run-rate of close to ten runs an over in the first six overs. Smith, in particular, looked keen to take the attack to the Worcestershire bowlers and did so successfully before perishing to Saeed Ajmal for an impressive cameo of 30 from 20 balls.
With Karl Brown quickly following Smith to the pavilion, Jos Buttler put on an exhibition in big hitting along with his senior partner Prince. Buttler made 55 from just 28 balls while Prince’s innings of 68 from 43 balls was equally impressive, and it provided a platform for Lancashire to end with a total of 229/4 in their allotted 20 overs. The impressive display from the Lancashire top-order meant that Flintoff, who would’ve been eager to get into the thick of action, was not even required with the bat in hand.
Worcestershire needed an improbable target of 230 from 20 overs in their run chase, and it was the ideal scenario for Flintoff to ease himself into his bowling. While Worcestershire made 50 from their first 5 overs raising hopes of a Worcestershire victory, it was always going to be a steep task.
Flintoff was introduced into the bowling attack by the Lancashire captain Paul Horton in the 6th over, and his comeback didn’t seem to be going the way he’d have liked with his first 2 balls being hit for a four and a six. But he settled into a nice rhythm soon after and looked better as the innings progressed, even snaffling a couple of wickets which were a bonus. He eventually completed his return to bowling with a spell of 4-0-36-2, as Lancashire coasted to a comfortable 50-run victory against Worcestershire.
Former South African batsman Prince, who has had quite a few tough battles against Flintoff in Test matches versus England, said: “He’s obviously a crowd favourite and he should be happy with his performance, getting a few wickets. He may have been a bit nervous starting but he dragged it back well. He’s an experienced player and he’ll only get better as the competition goes on. He’s a character and the game needs characters. He’s also put in the hard work. It hasn’t just come about because someone has come up with the idea.”
Buttler, who has grown up admiring Flintoff’s heroics for England, was delighted that he has now had the opportunity to share the dressing room with Flintoff. “It’s something I never thought I’d say, that I played in the same team as Andrew Flintoff,” he said. “It felt slightly surreal, he’s a legend of English cricket after all. He was definitely a hero when I was growing up – the 2005 Ashes is something I’ll always remember watching. He’s obviously quite a sociable character too, he’s very well liked, and he seemed happy to be back in the dressing room.”
Though Flintoff did not speak to the media after the game, he did send out a few tweets displaying his pleasure at making his comeback -He posted an image on instagram with the message - "What a day !!! Top of the league xxx"