Andrew Flintoff, who had appeared to be living for most of a week under a cloud worse than even this inclement weather, hit England to victory over Zimbabwe at Manchester in the NatWest Series. The 6ft 5in all-rounder put Zimbabwe's lights out before there was need to put those of Old Trafford on. Hitherto there has been almost as much talk about his waistline as that of Vanessa Feltz - if not more.

Even his attitude to fitness and the game had been questioned. Now in front on his own ground and in front of his own people he hammered 42 to get England their first points from play and, in the process,relaunched his own international career.

He came to the crease with captain Alec Stewart out already and he soon lost man-of-the-moment Marcus Trescothick. At this stage Zimbabwe's modest 114 runs total did not seem to be quite so modest. After five over sizing up the pitch Flintoff went on the attack by hitting Paul Strang twice for six. There were three more boundaries in his innings of 45 balls which won him man-of-the-match acclaim.

"Not bad for a fat lad," declared Flintoff in reference to the numerous "Fat Boy" and "Vast Bowler" headlines which have dogged him recently.

There were times that today he played and missed but Flintoff and Hick showed a more positive approach putting on 58 runs in 48 balls. England's victory was the quickest of the competition to date.

His batting was supported well by the crowd who responded, too, to England's improved performance in the field. Admittedly they were helped by a very off-key Zimbabwe side who seemed tob have left their hearts in Canterbury and some excellent bowling spearheaded by Alan Mullally.