Flintoff’s return will be a Blast – and put bums on seats at the circus

 

Cricket Correspondent

Muhammad Ali did it. So did Michaels Schumacher and Jordan. Frank Sinatra made virtually a second career out of it. Now Andrew Flintoff is joining the illustrious cast of those who simply could not resist returning to what it was they did best and for whom the walk into the sunset became swathed in shadow.

After weeks of conjecture Lancashire formally announced on Friday that Flintoff will return to playing for the county in this season’s T20 Blast. The likelihood is that he will make his professional comeback in the Roses match against Yorkshire at Old Trafford next Friday.

But first he will truly go back to where it all began by playing for St Annes, his boyhood club, in the Northern League against Penrith today. He has not batted, bowled or fielded in an organised match since he appeared in England’s victory against Australia at The Oval in 2009, which secured the Ashes.

Flintoff has been training with Lancashire for the last month and there have been several false starts before the official declaration yesterday. The county website was instantly updated so that its promotion for Lancashire Lightning in their T20 campaign included the tagline Fred Is Back.

It is difficult to know who will be spoiling whose party next Friday when Kevin Pietersen is also expected to play for Surrey in the same competition in his first match in this country since being sacked by England. That makes it truly like the old days when the pair vied to be the biggest deal in the dressing room.

If the next few weeks are bound to be a circus it is also true that Flintoff will put bums on seats. He was the biggest draw in English cricket since Ian Botham for almost a decade – and if Sir Ian, at 58, came back tomorrow people would flock to see him too.

Flintoff is a mere 36. Many cricketers have had substantial international careers beyond that age. In the last 50 years, Tom Graveney, Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey and Graham Gooch all played Tests in their forties.

There is no doubt that Flintoff has missed the smell of the liniment, of which he had to use plenty throughout an initial career in which his body was in constant rebellion against the tasks he was asking it to perform.

Towards the end he might have become slightly high maintenance – the Flintoff End of the Road Show dominated the 2009 Ashes after he announced on the eve of the Second Test that he was quitting – but it is also clear that he loved playing.

There was poignancy in his interview with BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday when he told of his disappointment at being overlooked for the match between MCC and a World XI in July to mark the bicentenary of Lord’s. He recalled taking a call from John Stephenson, MCC’s cricket secretary.

“I thought the call was to tell me where to turn up and who was in the side,” Flintoff said. “The kids were in the car and he told me they didn’t want me. He said they’ve got Brian Lara and all these other people.

“I saw my kids’ faces and that’s the first time they’d seen their dad told he can’t do something. They said: ‘Never mind, there will be other games’. And I thought: ‘There will be, actually’.”

Flintoff has obviously enjoyed his time in the Lancashire nets these past few weeks – “I’m stood in there with a bat in my hand and I’m just grinning” – and they have enjoyed him. He might have forgotten some of what made him, but at heart he is still the big kid from Preston.

His ankle has been playing up a bit recently, which delayed his return and intended outings for the county second team have come to nought because of rain.

There should be no doubts about the inherent fitness of a man who took part in a professional boxing bout and has been involved in a series of TV outdoor challenges but cricket will unquestionably repeat the questions it asked of his body up until five years ago and which he might have forgotten.

“I’m playing,” he said, “for the reasons that I first started playing cricket, because I love the game and I enjoy it.”

Circus or not, many will want front row seats to see the old ringmaster.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone