Fit Flintoff warms up on bowling return

Lancashire 252-7 Middlesex 195 <i>Lancashire win by 57 runs</i>
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The Independent Online

The only news that could dampen the euphoria would be that Barcelona have agreed terms for "Freddie" Flintoff. The giant all-rounder has been breezily blasting county attacks for a month while forbidden by England to bowl, saving a bruised shoulder.

The only news that could dampen the euphoria would be that Barcelona have agreed terms for "Freddie" Flintoff. The giant all-rounder has been breezily blasting county attacks for a month while forbidden by England to bowl, saving a bruised shoulder.

Yesterday afternoon he signalled that he was fully fit by making a spectacular boundary stop, throwing 70 yards and then bowling again for the first time since 11 May. After a slightly erratic start, he trapped the dangerous Abdul Razzaq with a beauty, a late break back.

Curiously, he played a significant part, too, when batting for his comparative failure, a mistimed pull when 11, was the only time that Middlesex might have felt they had a chance of winning. Lancashire were then 141 for 4 off 33 overs.

The pitch had been used before and was consequently bumpy and devious - hence the match award for Mal Loye's circumspect 74 in 42 overs.

Lancashire could have lost both their openers to slip catches in the first two overs and needed 17 overs to reach 69 when Iain Sutcliffe, driving, was betrayed by the bounce. Neither Stuart Law nor Carl Hooper managed to settle and when Flintoff also departed quickly the ground fell silent.

Yet this Lancashire are also resilient and Loye, Mark Chilton and, finally, Glen Chapple ensured that Middlesex would have to top 250 to win.

Sure enough, the descent was precipitous. James Anderson was bowling quickly enough for one ball to thud into Warren Hegg's gloves while Andy Strauss was still on the down stroke. At the other end Peter Martin was probing for every nick and crack.

Paul Weekes cover drove Anderson for four and then cut uppishly to cover; Owais Shah was beaten off the pitch; Ed Joyce and David Nash edged behind. Then, after 20 overs, came Flintoff, to dispose of Razzaq, leaving Hooper and the seamers to gentle proceedings along to an inevitable close.

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