Flintoff's game transformed by furious assault

Lancashire 196 & 377 Worcs 306 & 58-2
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The Independent Online

For 27 minutes an expectant crowd sat wondering where Andrew Flintoff's next run would come from. The England all-rounder looked in terrible touch as he attempted to atone for his five-ball duck in Lancashire's first innings. The nerves that caused him to play at a delivery he could have left alone were still present, and Chaminda Vaas was unfortunate not to find the outside edge of his bat when he wafted loosely at the second and third balls he faced from the Sri Lankan fast bowler.

For 27 minutes an expectant crowd sat wondering where Andrew Flintoff's next run would come from. The England all-rounder looked in terrible touch as he attempted to atone for his five-ball duck in Lancashire's first innings. The nerves that caused him to play at a delivery he could have left alone were still present, and Chaminda Vaas was unfortunate not to find the outside edge of his bat when he wafted loosely at the second and third balls he faced from the Sri Lankan fast bowler.

It took Flintoff a further 12 deliveries to get off the mark, and at the time Worcestershire would have been expecting to complete a comfortable victory. But these aspirations disappeared during an enthralling afternoon. Flintoff and Stuart Law each scored 83 and Dominic Cork posted a vital 57 as Lancashire turned a first-innings deficit of 110 into a target of 268.

Worcestershire lost two early wickets before the close and this see-saw Second Division match looks set for a thrilling final day.

The task of Vikram Solanki, the Worcestershire captain, was not helped by illness and injury depleting his bowling resources. Tonsillitis forced Kabir Ali off the field after a six-over opening burst, and David Wigley spent the day sat on the dressing-room balcony nursing a right knuckle, broken by an accidental beamer from James Anderson on Thursday. This forced Solanki to give Gareth Batty an early bowl but his decision to use the off-spinner at an end where the long-on and deep mid-wicket boundaries were nothing more than a gentle sand wedge away, was either very brave or extremely foolish.

Flintoff hit Batty's first ball back over the bowlers head and into the New Road Stand for six. In the England off-spinner's next over Flintoff drove him through the covers for four before violently pulling him on to the pavilion roof. In the final over of this ill-advised experiment, consecutive balls were sent to similar parts of the ground. Batty was taken off, having conceded 31 runs in three overs.

By the end of these explosive 15 minutes Flintoff was transformed. With his confidence returned and his feet moving with purpose the ball began making a sweet, deep thud when it hit the middle of his bat. In an attempt to retrieve the situation Solanki rotated his bowlers, but it made little difference. Flintoff's half-century came up off the 67th ball he faced when he edged a four to third man.

Stuart Law is rarely upstaged with a bat in his hand, but on this occasion the Australian was quite content to sit back and admire the view. Law is a beautiful player to watch and his innings contained several sumptuous drives along with a couple of effortless flicks through mid-wicket.

In two hours this destructive brace of right-handers had put on 139 runs and a desperate Solanki was forced to turn to the part-time medium pace of Stephen Moore. With only three first-class wickets to his name Moore would have been fearing the worst as he ran into bowl, but his fifth ball found the edge of Flintoff's bat and settled in the gloves of Jamie Pipe.

Lancashire lost Kyle Hogg and Law but as Vaas and Matt Mason - Worcestershire's two fit seamers - tired the visitors' lower order prospered. Dominic Cork batted brazenly while Warren Hegg and Sajid Mahmood chipped in with useful scores. The 113 runs Lancashire's last four wickets mustered could prove crucial.

* A devastating day's work from James Ormond ripped the heart out of Glamorgan's batting order in Cardiff, giving Surrey a target of 74 runs today - with just three wickets down - to win. The medium-fast right-armer took a seven-wicket haul for 63 runs in 18.4 overs as Glamorgan crumbled to a second-innings total of 173. Only the wicketkeeper Mark Wallace offered real resistance, with a stubborn 55 off 103 balls, though Alex Wharf did his bit with 34 off 76 balls.

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