Flintoff goes on the rampage to rescue Lancashire

Lancashire 347 Kent 12-0
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The Independent Online

He can't bowl and he can't field, but Andrew Flintoff can most definitely bat. He did not let Kent, nor a compressed nerve in his right shoulder, get in the way of a magnificent rescue act here yesterday.

While his injury ruled him out of England consideration Flintoff was still able to reach a hundred - and a big one at that - for the second successive championship innings. His 154 pulled Lancashire out of a horrible mess as they struggled with the wicked swing bowling of Mark Ealham.

Kent's England all-rounder had produced a magical spell of 4-6 in 22 balls which saw off most of Lancashire's dangermen, including Stuart Law and the former Kent favourite, Carl Hooper. But while Ealham's late swing had done early damage, it was the measured swing of Flintoff's bat which gradually dragged things Lancashire's way.

It was an innings of intense discipline and immense power. His shot selection was responsible. The pyrotechnics of his youth were not in evidence: in their place were measured strokes which drew as much on his innate sense of timing as on his remarkable strength.

No effort appeared to go into the shot with which he got off the mark - a flat six hard back over the bowler Ealham's head - or in the four shots that came in the first over after lunch, when Flintoff broke Kent hearts as he clipped and drove off-spinner James Tredwell for 20 runs to bring up the hundred for Lancashire. Those four shots were followed by seven more boundaries before he actually had to run from one end of the pitch to the other.

In the mid-afternoon heat his concentration finally wavered and he played his first false shot, an edge that second slip just got a hand to.

He was missed again shortly before tea, but by then it did not matter. He had shared in a thoroughly absorbing sixth wicket stand of 179 with Glenn Chapple, who made his first half century of the season.

Flintoff fell after tea forcing a ball from Ealham to cover point, where Tredwell took a tricky left-handed catch. It ended a marvellous innings in which a large crowd had been treated to eight sixes and 17 fours - 116 of his 154 runs - in just over two and a half hours.

His wicket earned Ealham his first five-wicket haul since 2001 and a wagging tail got Lancashire desperately close to a fourth bonus point before Alamgir Sheriyar whipped out the last two wickets in successive balls, leaving honours even for the day.