The ECB has confirmed that Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson will be available to play for Lancashire in the Twenty20 Cup finals day this Saturday at Edgbaston (August 7). While the majority of the contracted England players were ordered not to turn out for their counties ahead of the third Test, Flintoff and Anderson, along with Mark Butcher and Simon Jones, have been given the all clear.
The ECB stressed the importance of the players having to rest and recuperate after the back-to-back Tests against West Indies, but due to the status of the Twenty20 Cup, they were able to make an exception just this once.
The news will please many Lancashire supporters, as well as Warren Hegg, the captain, who was understandably keen to have Flintoff in his ranks for the big day. On the back of a Test-best score of 167, Flintoff played only two Twenty20 matches in the qualifying stage, but still managed to top the averages with 58 from two innings of 85 and 31.
"I know there's nothing Freddie would like more than to play for Lancashire in a big final." Hegg told the BBC. "It all depends how serious they [the ECB] are about wanting the competition to be a success. This is a big showpiece day for English cricket when they're trying to get the public's interest, and it would be great to have the top players like Jimmy and Freddie playing in it." Well, he has got his wish.
Butcher will be available to play for Surrey, although he is struggling to be fit in time for the finals day, as well as the third Test, with a thigh injury. Graham Thorpe, however, will not be available due to a sore achilles.
Jones, who was left out of England's starting XI for the last Test, and then also for Glamorgan's Championship match against Hampshire, is free to play in their current match at Taunton, the Twenty20 day, and the National League match at Canterbury on Monday, August 9.
The finals day includes the two semi-finals, to be fought out between Lancashire and Surrey, last year's finalists, and then Leicestershire and Glamorgan. The final will be played under the floodlights at 7pm.