Andrew Flintoff's bid to be fit in time for next month's first Test against New Zealand at Lord's received a boost Thursday as the England all-rounder got through 28 overs for Lancashire in the first innings of their County Championship opener against Surrey at The Oval.
During the close season Flintoff underwent a fourth operation on a troublesome left ankle that has not always been able to stand the strain of his all-action approach to fast bowling.
It is still to be seen how the joint reacts after such a lengthy stint but the fact Flintoff took one for 72 in 28 overs, as the hosts piled up 537 for five declared while operating at a lively pace, impressed Mark Butcher, the Surrey captain.
"He seemed to be coming through quite nicely," said the left-hander whose 120 was one of three centuries in Surrey's innings all made by former England Test batsmen.
"He's obviously a quality bowler, who goes at two an over pretty much in any cricket he plays in and is always asking questions.
"Provided he comes through with no ill effects he won't be far away with another couple of games under his belt."
Lancashire coach Mike Watkinson said of Flintoff: "He's had first days, second days and third days before because that is the way we have structured his comeback, making him bowl on consecutive days.
"We knew he was capable of doing what he has done in this match, he has bowled well and he's feeling fine."
Earlier Thursday, on the second day of this four-day match, Mark Ramprakash extended his 98th first-class hundred to 118 while Usman Afzaal, who played three Tests for England in 2001 against Australia, marked his Surrey debut with 134 not out.
Afzaal, who began his county career with Nottinghamshire, joined Surrey from Northamptonshire and Butcher said of the 30-year-old: "I don't think I have seen him bat at the Oval without him getting a hundred," said Butcher. "He's a great player and we're very pleased to have him."