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Flintoff makes fairytale return

Published: Monday, July 10, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Manchester :Andrew Flintoff made a spectacular return to senior cricket with an astonishing bowling haul here at Old Trafford.

In his first match in a month since being ruled out with an ankle injury, Flintoff took three wickets for four runs in three overs in Lancashire's seven-wicket Twenty20 win over Nottinghamshire.

Although the man England hope will captain them in the Ashes will not feature in the first Test against Pakistan starting at Lord's on Thursday, the selectors hope to have him leading the side at his Old Trafford home ground when the second act of the four-match series gets underway there on July 27.

Not that Flintoff, although pleased by his comeback, was getting carried away. "I have worked incredibly hard over the past four weeks," he said.

"I have done five or six hours a day and lost a stone in weight, partly through diet and partly through training.

"But the ankle area is weak. Most bowlers have an area of weakness and it seems this is mine. I have to look after it and effectively I will have to keep doing rehabilitation on it for the rest of my career."

Flintoff, who became a national hero after starring in England's Ashes series win at home to Australia last year, returned the most economical three over spell yet seen in an English domestic Twenty20 clash and, even more encouragingly for England, he was able to generate pace of 90mph.

Flintoff, who shared the new ball with ex-England all-rounder Dominic Cork, struck nine balls into his spell when he had Graeme Swann edging to wicket-keeper Gareth Cross as the batsman took evasive action.

Two balls later Paul Franks - who'd seen his first ball from 'Freddie' whistle past his shoulder - was also caught behind after swishing outside off-stump.

By the end of his second over, Flintoff's figures stood at two for three.

And come the end of his next, they were three for four after David Alleyne, backing away, trod on his own wicket as he tried to fend off a rising ball.

Lancashire captain Mark Chilton then removed Flintoff from the attack and with Nottinghamshire collapsing to 91 all out in 19 overs there was no need for the crowd favourite to bowl his fourth and final over.

Flintoff then took a superb cover catch to dismiss Australian David Hussey off left-arm spinner Gary Keedy.

Nevertheless it was Cork, with four for 16 from four overs, who won the man-of-the-match award.

When he batted, Flintoff struck the second ball he received from Andrew Harris for four before lofting the fourth for long-on over six although he was out for 10 to a hoick to mid-on.

But Lancashire, thanks to former Australia batsman Stuart Law's unbeaten 62, eased to victory with 28 balls to spare.

Despite his dramatic comeback, England have made it clear that Flintoff must come through Lancashire's four-day county championship match away to Kent, starting on July 18, before they will consider him for a Test recall.

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