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Flintoff comeback: is it tonight?

David Hopps

July 4, 2014

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Andrew Flintoff was back in the nets at Old Trafford, Manchester, May 30, 2014
Can Andrew Flintoff get out of the nets and onto the field? © PA Photos
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The Andrew Flintoff guessing game is back in operation after Lancashire named him in their NatWest T20 Blast squad to face Warwickshire at Edgbaston and again encouraged speculation that tonight might be the night he makes a much-heralded return to professional cricket. Or there again, it might not: Lancashire are giving nothing away. Perhaps in this case they should do.

With the five-year anniversary since his last competitive match rapidly approaching, Flintoff, at 36, is edging ever closer to a return. If he makes it tonight, he might for once struggle for the headlines - contending, as he will be, with the rival attraction of two televised World Cup football quarter-finals, including the appearance of the hosts Brazil.

Flintoff turned up at Lancashire second XI game at Southport on Thursday and had a decent batting net plus a longish bowl in the middle.

One observer was asked for an opinion on Flintoff's comeback by ESPNcricinfo but he was determinedly looking to the future and claimed to be more taken by the batting talents of Haseeb Hameed, an England U-19 who made an impressive, if cautious, 30.

It would also be unusual if he returned in Birmingham, so denying the home crowd at Old Trafford the chance to observe a spot of history. But Lancashire now have a run of three away games before returning to Old Trafford to face Derbyshire on July 18 and Durham, in their final match, six days later. A partisan crowd and a home quarter-final potentially already secured: that sounds more likely.

Flintoff, the former England allrounder, and hero of their 2009 Ashes triumph, came out of retirement in May but although his efforts have commanded respect he has yet to force his way into a Lancashire side which lies second in the North Division and is strongly placed to qualify for the quarter-finals.

He has made a couple of appearances for Lancashire's 2nd XI, even playing a 50-over match against Nottinghamshire where he thumped 40 off just 23 balls to help his side to victory. Lancashire's assistant coach, Gary Yates, has remarked that he is getting better and better.

Whatever Flintoff's fate, one record looks set to fall at Old Trafford: Lancashire's Steven Croft is set for his 96th consecutive Twenty20 appearance, which is record in professional cricket in England and Wales.

Flintoff's short stint as a professional boxer - one victory against the American Richard Dawson at the MEN Arena 20 months ago - has been put down as a contributory factor in his cricketing comeback.

Flintoff's friend and agent, former Lancashire and England batsman Neil Fairbrother, said this week: "The fitness levels which he got out of boxing have enabled him to run in and bowl again without the pain and stiffness he used to have. He has realised his body is up to the task. I just think it will be an amazing experience for everybody in the crowd as and when he plays for Lancashire again."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Robster1 on (July 4, 2014, 13:25 GMT)

Shame Flintoff's not playing in front of a full house at Lord's tomorrow for the MCC

Posted by Aisha_Malik on (July 4, 2014, 9:54 GMT)

It is forecasted to rain all evening in Birmingham so its unlikely we'll see him play tonight which will be hugely disappointing for all.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 4, 2014, 9:48 GMT)

No. Andrew Flintoff won his only bout in the boxing ring, on points, over 4 rounds, but suffered severe shoulder damage in the process. To be honest, it was not much of a fight, but not too many people would have had the guts to try. Good luck to him if he does make a comeback.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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