England's brief for Andrew Flintoff on his latest comeback from injury was straightforward enough – show us you are bowling well and batting well and you will be bang in the frame. If they had been using modern business-speak, they would probably have told him to get all his ducks in a row.
Now – there's a phrase he is not likely to find particularly funny right now, given what happened here yesterday.
As if two first-ball dismissals in consecutive first-class innings were not enough to leave the national selectors in a complete fuddle over whether to recall him for next week's first Test against New Zealand, he pulled off an unwanted hat-trick by recording yet another nought in the scorebook – his fourth pair in first-class cricket but the first time he has had three zeros back to back.
At least this time it was not of the golden variety, although that may have been scant consolation since the man who brought about his downfall with the fifth ball he faced was a former wicketkeeper looking to reinvent himself as a swing-bowling all-rounder.
Garry Park, a 25-year-old former Cambridge University centre of excellence gloveman, was bowling only his third over in Championship cricket when he persuaded the ball to duck in towards a patently uneasy Flintoff, who went to drive, missed, and was bowled between bat and pads, his off-stump cartwheeling out of the ground.
Having cheerily waved his bat to acknowledge some ironic applause for successfully defending his first ball, Flintoff may have felt slightly foolish.
Yet he is bowling like a dream. Flintoff's three wickets in the evening session – in the space of 11 balls with no run conceded – offered yet more evidence of that as Mark Stoneman tickled one down the leg side before Kyle Coetzer and England team-mate Paul Collingwood both succumbed to unplayable outswing, delivered at frightening speed.
Were it not for niggling doubts, after only three first-class matches since his latest ankle surgery, about his fitness to bowl long, Test-match spells, he would be selected as a bowler alone. Lancashire will not mind at all if he is not.
After Paul Horton's fine 108 – a fifth career century for the opener and a second in a row – they are 295 ahead going into the third day, with Flintoff poised to bowl them to a first victory of the season.
l The England batsman Ian Bell again failed to make the most of a good start at Derby. Bell fell in the forties for the third time this season, making 48 against Derbyshire, although he did become the quickest home-grown Warwickshire player to reach 5,000 first-class runs. Bell helped his side to reach 310 in reply to Derbyshire's 270.
Freddie's flops: Flintoff's tales of woe at the wicket
Andrew Flintoff's four pairs in first-class cricket:
Lancashire v Derbyshire (Derby) Aug 1997:
1st inns: b Malcolm 0.
2nd inns: c Krikken b Cork 0.
England v South Africa, (Headingley) Aug 1998:
1st inns: c Liebenberg b Pollock 0 (3 balls).
2nd inns: c Boucher b Donald 0 (5 balls).
England v India (Headingley) Aug 2002:
1st inns: lbw b Harbhajan Singh 0 (1 ball).
2nd inns: c Dravid b Khan 0 (2 balls).
Lancashire v Durham (Old Trafford) May 2008:
1st inns: c Collingwood b Davies 0 (1 ball).
2nd inns: b Park (5 balls).
Flintoff's four dismissals this season (first class):
Surrey v Lancashire (The Oval) 18 April:
c Butcher b Saqlain Mushtaq 23 (23 balls, four 4s). Deceived by Saqlain's doosra, caught at first slip.
Lancashire v Somerset (Old Trafford) 23 April:
c Kieswetter b Trego 0 (1 ball). Pushed at outswinger, caught behind.
Lancashire v Durham (Old Trafford) 7 May:
c Collingwood b Davies 0(1 ball). Deceived by late away movement, edged to first slip.
Lancashire v Durham (Old Trafford) 8 May:
b Park 0 (5 balls). Lunged at inswinger, bowled "through the gate".Reuse content