Andrew Flintoff will have to wait a little longer for his return to competitive cricket after rain washed out last night's NatWest Blast T20 match at Edgbaston without a ball bowled after the former England all-rounder was named in the Lancashire squad for the first time.
Glenn Chapple, Lancashire's club captain and assistant coach, said that there was "a strong chance" 36-year-old Flintoff, who has played in two Second XI matches since announcing his intention to make a comeback, would have played had the match taken place.
He remains in the squad for Lancashire's next T20 match against Worcestershire at New Road tomorrow afternoon, when he could play his first competitive match since his final Test against Australia at The Oval in 2009, after which he announced his retirement from all cricket because of persistent injury problems.
"Picking him will be a difficult decision because the team has been in good form and the players have been doing their jobs really well," Chapple said. "But we know that 'Fred' playing well is an exceptional cricketer and even though he has been out of the game for a while the potential is still there. He had a strong chance of playing tonight."
Chapple said that several factors would come into the final decision on when Flintoff returns to action and that his closeness to being selected last night would not necessarily have a bearing on whether he plays tomorrow.
"He has been in decent form but it maybe comes down to a tactical change depending on conditions," he said. "There will not be any chances taken with our team selection so it would be more a matter of what the pitch is like, or whereabouts on the square it is in relation to the boundaries, which might affect the balance of the side you pick, so we'll have to wait and see."
Tomorrow's match pitches first against second in the North Division of the qualifying groups, with Lancashire trailing Worcestershire only on net run rate with their points tally equal. A win for Lancashire would give them one foot in the quarter-finals, so they are unlikely to take any risks to include Flintoff.
But Chapple confirmed that Flintoff, who has maintained the fitness levels he attained during his brief career as a professional boxer, will almost certainly play at some stage in the competition.
"He is itching to play, of course," Chapple said. "He has put a lot of things to one side to work on his fitness and has spent a lot of time around the lads. He is not in for training sessions, he is in to play competitively."