Durham v Lancashire, County Championship, Chester-le-Street June 11, 2009

Flintoff strikes on surprise return

Cricinfo staff

Andrew Flintoff made a surprise return from injury for Lancashire and struck with his second ball against Durham, at Chester-le-Street, as he bids to be fit for the Ashes and finished the day with 2 for 30 from 12 overs

He had been included as a travelling member of the squad for the Championship game, but hadn't been expected to make the starting XI as he continued his recovery from knee surgery.

However, on the morning of the match the decision was taken that he was ready to resume playing, six weeks after surgery on the injury that forced him to fly home from the IPL and had Michael Di Venuto caught behind straight away. In total he sent down three spells of six, four and two overs.

Flintoff's physio Dave Roberts said the decision to throw Flintoff back into the fray had been reached with full agreement with the ECB. "Fred has been working extremely hard on his recovery and fitness and it has been carefully monitored by the England medical staff.

"Dr Nick Peirce, the ECB's chief medical officer, and I have been working closely together and we felt that his knee had sufficiently recovered for him to return to action. The ECB medical team have been extremely supportive to me and Lancashire and now it's just a question of Fred getting in some time in the middle and overs under his belt.

"All the work Fred has done, particularly on a recent trip to Portugal when he was pushed really hard, means that he is slightly ahead of schedule in his recovery, but he will continue his rehabilitation both on and off the field and hopefully he will be 100 percent again before not too long."

Flintoff had shown promising signs earlier this week when he bowled at near full pace during the interval of Lancashire's Championship match against Somerset, at Old Trafford, under the watchful eye of Roberts and coach Peter Moores.

"Freddie has increased his intensity and bowled a bit more each day and came through very well this morning before the game so he was deemed fit to play," Moores said. "Now he's got the chance to get some miles under his belt and if he gets himself confident by playing some good cricket he'll be ready for the Ashes."

After Flintoff's operation he was optimistically named in England's ICC World Twenty20 squad, but unsurprisingly had to be replaced before the tournament which raised concerns that he would struggle to make the start of the Ashes on July 8. Those worries will have eased with today's appearance, but the focus will now be on how his body reacts to a proper work out.

If he comes through this match unscathed Lancashire have another four-day game against Hampshire, at Liverpool, next week followed by the closing stages of the Twenty20 qualifying campaign. England then play a three-day Ashes warm-up match against Warwickshire, at Edgbaston, on July 1.