Flintoff makes safe return to action as Anderson impresses

Middlesex v Lancashire

Andrew Flintoff has made his name through clubbing little red and white leather projectiles into the stands at cricket grounds. But it was not the sight of the England all-rounder repeating these feats that warmed the hearts of England supporters yesterday on his eagerly awaited return from injury.

Andrew Flintoff has made his name through clubbing little red and white leather projectiles into the stands at cricket grounds. But it was not the sight of the England all-rounder repeating these feats that warmed the hearts of England supporters yesterday on his eagerly awaited return from injury.

Quite the opposite. The most encouraging sight during Flintoff's 33-minute innings against Middlesex here was that of him painlessly sprinting through for a quick single. It will be at least another two or three weeks before he is given the all-clear to bowl, but it was pleasing to watch Flintoff safely come through another stage of his recovery from an operation which removed a bone spur from his left ankle.

After blocking nine deliveries, Flintoff scored his first runs by pulling Scott Styris for four. And then, for good measure, he powerfully drove the Kiwi's next ball down the ground for four. But it was Styris who had the last laugh when he trapped Flintoff lbw when he was on 17.

The sight of Flintoff returning to action was not the only reason for England supporters to celebrate. It was clear that James Anderson is moving back in the right direction after his wretched tour of South Africa, and his final bowling figures - 1 for 32 in nine overs - did not do him justice. Bowling from the Pavilion End, and moving the ball up the Lord's slope, Anderson beat the bat regularly during his opening spell.

The 22-year-old knocked Paul Weekes' middle stump out of the ground with a beautiful inswinger and should have had Ed Smith caught at third slip by Dominic Cork. The former England all-rounder quickly made up for this error when he bowled Owais Shah and then trapped Smith lbw.

Soon last season's Second Division champions were on 37 for 6 and at this stage many wondered whether Flintoff's batting would be required. However, the situation seemed to inspire Jamie Dalrymple, who set about Lancashire's attack with gusto.

The right-hander smashed Kyle Hogg for two sixes before chipping the same bowler to Iain Sutcliffe at deep square leg when he was on 81. Though disappointed, Dalrymple returned to the Lord's dressing-room knowing that his efforts had given Middlesex an excellent chance of pulling off an unexpected victory.

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