Andrew Flintoff makes winning T20 comeback with Lancashire
NatWest T20 Blast, New Road
Lancashire 229-4 beat Worcestershire 179-7 by 50 runs
Former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff took two wickets in his first county game since 2009 as Lancashire beat Worcestershire in the T20 Blast.
The 36-year-old retired from the sport in 2010, having made his last domestic Twenty20 appearance a year earlier.
He was not required to bat at New Road as Lancashire piled up 229-4, with Ashwell Prince scoring 68 off 43 balls.
Flintoff (2-36) bowled Tom Kohler-Cadmore and had Alexei Kervezee caught as Worcs fell 50 runs short on 179-7.
"For a man with such a legendary stage presence, Freddie Flintoff might have picked a better day than the British Grand Prix and Wimbledon men's singles final to make his much-debated comeback.
"There was not even any live TV coverage of what, in its own right, was already a real occasion - the meeting of top against second in the T20 Blast North Group.
"But after two months of 'Will he? Won't he?' speculation, and despite football-banter-style jibes from some less respectful members of a packed New Road crowd, Freddie received a warm welcome back.
"Disappointingly, he did not get a bat. And Worcestershire opener Richard Oliver, one of the many who worshipped him as a boy, then ungraciously slapped his first two looseners for four and six.
"But there were enough flashes from the great man to convince the cynics that his comeback is not some clever marketing ploy - and two wickets in a comfortable Lancashire victory made it a happy return too."
Ged Scott, BBC Sport at New Road
"It's something I never thought I'd say, that I played in the same team as Andrew Flintoff. It was a great experience and he did pretty well," said team-mate Jos Buttler.
"He's a legend of English cricket. You've got to pinch yourself that you're playing in the same team as him.
"They were always going to come hard chasing a big total, so bowling in the powerplay was always going to be tough but he came back well and got his yorkers in nicely at the end."
Lancashire's seventh win in nine T20 Blast games this season enabled them to leapfrog the home side to the top of the North Group table.
Having announced his comeback in May, Flintoff was in the squad for a number of recent fixtures without making their final XI, but this time was included in place of Arron Lilley, the only change to the Lancashire side that beat Northants by 53 runs in the T20 Blast on 20 June.
In his last Twenty20 appearance five years ago, he hit six sixes and nine fours in an innings of 93 off 41 balls at Derbyshire.
Flintoff was listed to bat at number eight and Lancashire had no need to promote him up the order as South African left-hander Prince struck nine fours and two sixes, and shared a stand of 93 in seven overs with England one-day wicketkeeper Buttler, who hit three sixes in his 55 from 28 balls.
Brett D'Oliveira, playing for Worcestershire just a week after the death of his father, a former Worcestershire player and the club's academy manager, gave away 16 from a single over of leg-spin, but redeemed himself with an excellent catch to remove the dangerous Buttler off Colin Munro (2-37).
Tom Smith (30), Karl Brown (29) and Steven Croft (29 off 11 balls) also maintained a healthy tempo as Lancashire established a new record score by an opposing team at New Road in a T20 match.
Facing such a target, Worcestershire needed to hit the ground running at the start of their reply and Flintoff was not given the ball until the sixth over, the last of the powerplay.
Andrew Flintoff Writing on Twitter
“Apart from getting donged for 2 6's by a couple of cheeky kids , loved it !!”
He almost dismissed Richard Oliver, who was playing Minor Counties cricket with Shropshire only a few weeks ago, with his first delivery, but the ball flew just out of the reach of Croft on its way to the cover boundary.
Oliver then had the temerity to hammer the next over mid-on for six and Flintoff retired to fielding duties, having conceded 0-15 from his opening over.
Daryl Mitchell (46) and Oliver (44) put on 90 in eight overs for Worcestershire, but the former was then stumped off Croft for 46, who also had Oliver caught off the final ball of the 11th over.
Flintoff returned to the attack in the 13th over and was immediately pulled for six by 19-year-old Tom Kohler-Cadmore, but gained his revenge three balls later when the youngster went for another big hit and was bowled.
As Worcestershire's run chase began to peter out, he enjoyed further success when Alexei Kervezee lofted a catch to Brown but had to contend with rain as he bowled his final over, thankfully avoiding any injuries which might have cut his comeback short.
With his side looking a good bet for a place in the quarter-finals, Flintoff had certainly done enough to suggest he could have a significant role to play in their bid to win the trophy for the first time.
Flintoff declined to comment after the game, but Prince said: "It was good to have the big man back. He's always a crowd favourite.
"He must have been a little bit nervous starting, but he didn't show it. He's an experienced player and I think he'll only get better as the competition goes on."
Flintoff eventually broke his silence on Twitter, saying: "Apart from getting donged for 2 6's by a couple of cheeky kids , loved it !!"