Awesome Flintoff dismisses Surrey

Natwest Trophy quarter-finals: Stunning innings by all-rounder while Gloucestershire keep one-day machine rolling

Andrew Flintoff played a phenomenal innings of 135 not out in 111 balls which took Lancashire into the semi-finals of the NatWest Trophy here yesterday. It was storybook fiction from the moment Mike Atherton was bowled by a beauty from Alex Tudor in the first over of Lancashire's innings.

Andrew Flintoff played a phenomenal innings of 135 not out in 111 balls which took Lancashire into the semi-finals of the NatWest Trophy here yesterday. It was storybook fiction from the moment Mike Atherton was bowled by a beauty from Alex Tudor in the first over of Lancashire's innings.

"It has to go down as one of the great innings in one-day domestic cricket," Flintoff's captain, John Crawley, said. "I remember watching a great Viv Richards innings at Old Trafford a few years ago and this is very close behind it."

David Gower, who presented Flintoff with the man of the match award, said: "We've just watched one of the most awesome innings we are ever going to see on a cricket field."

On a pitch taking spin slowly, it looked as if Lancashire would have their work cut out to score the 211 they required with Saqlain Mushtaq and Ian Salisbury flexing their spinning fingers. But without Martin Bicknell, who has a back injury, Surrey lacked seam experience and Lancashire decided to attack from the start as insurance against the spinners later on.

Flintoff took guard and dispatched his first ball, a leg stump half-volley, to the square leg boundary. Then, it was Carl Greenidge's turn to suffer and in no time at all he had been driven four times with murderous power to the offside boundary. His first four overs cost 33. Alex Tudor commanded more respect for a time until his fifth over when Flintoff picked him up off his toes to forward square leg for six and off drove the next ball for four to bring up the fifty.

Sourav Ganguly made the other end safe and did his best to give Flintoff the strike. Surrey were never able to close Flintoff up. In the 12th over he went to his 50 in just 40 balls when Jason Ratcliffe was straight driven and pulled for two sixes.

Surrey did not have any bowlers able on the day to force him to take risks and get himself out. When Saqlain came on to bowl the 14th over, Lancashire were already 71 for 1. His first ball was a full toss and he never settled down. Three overs later Salisbury began to bowl his leg breaks and it did not suit him to have to bowl to the left-handed Ganguly. While Flintoff sensibly throttled back, Ganguly changed up a gear and together they milked the spinners who, in the unaccustomed position of being put on the back foot by the batsmen, had five overs each at this stage at a total cost of 49 runs. Then the seamers returned and so did and Flintoff's power stroke play. The flowing arc of his bat as his searing drives followed one another was as smooth and relentless as Tiger Woods swing had been last weekend up at St Andrews.

When he had made 67, Flintoff failed to read Salisbury's googly and was perilously close to being lbw and soon afterwards Salisbury might just have had him caught at slip. After that, runs continued to come like a tidal wave and Flintoff's 100 arrived from 88 balls with three sixes and 14 fours. In all he hit 14 sixes and 18 fours.

It was only a detail when Ganguly fell at slip to a wild drive. It was more relevant that Flintoff stayed to the end for it suggested that he may be beginning to understand that responsibility needs to be a constant companion for his huge talent.

Earlier, the Surrey innings had begun well with Alex Stewart continuing his fine form while Ian Ward worked hard and Graham Thorpe looked much more the part than he has done in recent weeks. Chris Schofield's leg breaks were well worth his 4 for 41 and he received good support from his fellow spinner Gary Keedy and Gary Yates. Surrey could only muster 210 for 7, a total Flintoff was soon laughing at most heartily.

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