Andrew Flintoff finally made his long-awaited comeback for Lancashire (229/4) on Sunday, helping his team defeat Worcestershire (179/7) in record-breaking fashion, winning by 50 runs.
Live Cricket Score announced the result:
Worcestershire Rapids 179-7 vs Lancashire Lightning 229-4 #cricket— Live Cricket Score (@criclivescore) July 6, 2014
The Ashes hero hadn't played for Lancashire since 2009 and announced his retirement one year later, but he had been steadily working on a comeback throughout the early portion of this season.
On Sunday, it was finally his time to shine, and he put in a very solid performance for Lancashire. The veteran bowled four overs, giving up 36 runs and taking two wickets to end with an economy rate of nine.
His return to the cricket grounds was announced earlier in the day, via NatWest T20 Blast:
The man himself was obviously excited to be making his comeback, via his Twitter account:
2nd debut !!! http://t.co/bTuHPE69Q2— andrew flintoff (@flintoff11) July 6, 2014
Worcestershire won the toss and elected to field, a decision they would regret almost instantly. Tom Smith opened with 30 runs from 20 balls and Ashwell Prince added 68 from 43, setting the tone early.
|Smith||st Cox||b Ajmal||30||0||20||5||1|
|Prince||run out (D'Oliveira)||68||0||43||9||2|
|Brown||c C Russell||b Munro||29||0||16||3||1|
|Buttler||c D'Oliveira||b Munro||55||0||28||3||3|
|Extras||2nb 12w 1b 1lb||16||Extras||2nb 12w 1b 1lb||16|
|Total||for 4 (20.0 ovs)||229||Total||for 4 (20.0 ovs)||229|
Lancashire took advantage of some sloppy bowling from Chris Russell (four overs, 43 runs) and Jack Shantry (four overs, 40 runs), as Saeed Ajmal was the only Worcestershire bowler able to keep his economy rate in single digits.
Jos Butler added 55 more runs from 28 balls, and the Lancashire batsmen were finding the boundary left and right. When all was said and done, the Red Rose had set a new personal T20 mark, with a final score of 229.
The new Lancashire high for runs broke the record set in the last match Flintoff had started for the team, per BBCLancsCricket:
With Worcestershire chasing 230, it gave the Lancashire bowlers the chance to be aggressive in their deliveries early. While Richard Oliver (44 from 29), Daryl Mitchell (46 from 28) and Colin Munro (28 from 22) dealt well with the initial onslaught, their teammates couldn't keep up the pace.
|Oliver||c Parry||b Croft||44||0||29||3||2|
|Mitchell||st Buttler||b Croft||46||0||28||6||1|
|Kervezee||c Brown||b Flintoff||6||0||8||0||0|
|Extras||2nb 14w 2b 2lb||20||Extras||2nb 14w 2b 2lb||20|
|Total||for 7 (20.0 ovs)||179||Total||for 7 (20.0 ovs)||179|
Tom Kohler-Cadmore was retired after just six balls, and you'll never guess who took his wicket:
A wicket for Flintoff on his return as he bowls Kohler-Cadmore. Worcestershire 132-3 needing another 98 runs from 44 balls. #WorvLan— BBCLancsCricket (@BBCLancsCricket) July 6, 2014
Kohler-Cadmore's wicket opened the floodgates, as the next four batsmen were all dismissed for single-digit runs. Alexei Kervezee was caught on a sharp delivery from Flintoff after scoring just six runs, and Lancashire's lead was never in doubt from that point on.
Steven Croft and Kabir Ali finished with identical stats on the day (four overs, 30 runs, two wickets) but as expected, all attention went to Flintoff.
Lancashire took a big risk in playing Flintoff in this top-of-the-table clash, but thanks to the early batting display, the risks were largely nullified by the time the former England captain delivered his first ball.
That said, Flintoff looked splendid on the day, overcoming some early jitters to end the match with a good-looking scorecard. His team now take the solo lead in the North Division, and the veteran did little to suggest he shouldn't be playing when the Lightning face off against Leicestershire on Friday.
If Flintoff can build on his performance from Sunday, there's no reason not to believe he couldn't play a leading role in Lancashire's bid to win their first-ever T20 Blast trophy.