Flintoff steps up rehabilitation to lift Lancashire

Lancashire 196-4, Essex 195-9: Lancashire win by six wickets

Unlike the other 11 England players named for the first Test against Bangladesh at Lord's next week, Andrew Flintoff has been granted permission to play Championship cricket for his county this weekend having requested a further opportunity to sharpen his match fitness. Essex might suggest he hardly needs it.

Unlike the other 11 England players named for the first Test against Bangladesh at Lord's next week, Andrew Flintoff has been granted permission to play Championship cricket for his county this weekend having requested a further opportunity to sharpen his match fitness. Essex might suggest he hardly needs it.

Taking his rehabilitation a substantial step further, Flintoff bowled his full compliment of 10 overs as Lancashire trounced their second round opponents to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy. His initial seven-over spell was his longest since ankle surgery during the winter.

He looked still to have something in reserve but let one or two deliveries go at a quick enough pace to trouble good batsmen. Andy and Grant Flower, the former Zimbabwe Test players, would testify to that. Flintoff took four wickets, including the aforementioned brothers.

Accounting for Grant, caught at long leg pulling, and Andy, who edged to second slip, in his fourth and fifth overs, Flintoff effectively quashed Essex's hopes of a competitive recovery from their loss of both openers in the first six overs: he later returned to dismiss Alex Tudor and Darren Gough. Only Ravinder Bopara (42) provided any resistance for Essex in a disappointing performance.

The substance of Lancashire's reply came from the captain Mark Chilton (40) and Australia's Brad Hodge, whose 82 won him the man of the match award despite being dropped once and surviving when a catch claimed by Grant Flower at midwicket was judged not to have carried.

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