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July 2, 2008
Lancashire 392 and 109 for 2 (Flintoff 62*) beat Sussex 253 and 245 (Goodwin 80, Chapple 6-58) by eight wickets
And just in case anyone's interest in the final innings was drifting, Flintoff's promotion to No. 4 meant there was some added spice to the run-chase. That was especially true when he appeared to get away with an outside edge off Corey Collymore on 2. It might just have been the change of fortune Flintoff needed in his search for batting form, although this performance shouldn't be enough to sway the selectors into any late change of heart regarding the first Test against South Africa.
There were still plenty of edges, and another was dropped at third slip by Carl Hopkinson, along with uncertain prodding and poking, but slowly he located the middle with some strong drives. As the innings progressed the stroke-range expanded and two straight hits for six were trademark Flintoff. His unbeaten 62 was more than double his previous five innings in the Championship, and his highest first-class score since the 89 he made at Sydney in January 2007.
The way he and Paul Horton eased Lancashire past their target of 107, and to second place in the table, was deceptively easy after Sussex created some early alarms as the ball swung under heavy skies. Lou Vincent was caught behind prodding outside off stump shortly before the lengthy rain break, then on resumption after an early tea Mal Loye completed a poor match when he was trapped lbw for the second time by Jason Lewry.
But if Sussex were to have any hope of defending a meagre total everything needed to go their way, and they were also missing Mushtaq Ahmed after his knee problems flared up. They didn't help themselves either with their dropped catches and Hopkinson missed a second, this time off Horton, whose cover-driving showed why he is averaging over 60 this season.
Stuart Law's 158 was the decisive innings of the match, but it was Lancashire's pace bowlers who did the hard yards to set up this victory on a slow pitch. Flintoff wasn't needed on the final morning as Glen Chapple and Sajid Mahmood ran through the lower order in 50 minutes.
Sussex's main hope of a setting a substantial target was Murray Goodwin and tension would have grown in the Lancashire camp when he was dropped by Luke Sutton off Chapple on 80. However, those concerns were eased with the very next ball when he glanced down the leg side where Sutton made amends with a fine, two-handed, dive to his left and Chapple had a worthy five-wicket haul.
Ollie Rayner slashed to gully off Mahmood and the other bowlers didn't seem up for a long fight. Mushtaq backed away against Chapple and, after a couple of meaty thumps, Lewry exposed his stumps against Mahmood. Flintoff's wicketless performance has filled up the column inches, but Mahmood has been the stand-out quick on display. The selectors' interest in this match was largely about one man, but Mahmood will have done his chances of a second shot at international cricket no harm.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?