The disproportionate interest in Andrew Flintoff is not always to Lancashire's liking but as they struggled to match a seemingly modest Somerset first innings score here yesterday a cavalier half-century (or better) from their man to spark a flurry of interview requests would have been welcome indeed.
What they did not need was the mini-frenzy sparked by a first-ball duck, especially in view of what happened in the wake of his last one. For anyone who might have forgotten, it was in the World Cup in 2007, against New Zealand (caught Scott Styris at short cover, bowled Shane Bond), in the Caribbean, and his omission from the team for England's next match, against Canada – not to mention his defrocking as vice-captain – had nothing to do with it.
Happily, a year of repentance down the line, nothing matters more to Flintoff now than to be fit and in form to make the England side picked to face New Zealand again at Lord's, in the first Test on 15 May.
Undecided whether to go forward or back as Peter Trego, Somerset's all-rounder, found just the length to test him, Flintoff did neither, the resultant prod of the bat deflecting the ball neatly into the gloves of wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter. There was no hat-trick. Indeed, had he been watching, which is doubtful, Flintoff might have looked on a touch ruefully as Trego's next ball drifted down the leg side, allowing Luke Sutton, the incoming batsman, to help himself to a boundary.
"I'd love to bowl that one every ball," Trego said later of the delivery of the day. "It was angling and shaped away a foot – ideal. If I knew the formula I'd bottle it and sell it."
Flintoff has another eight potential run-scoring opportunities before the Test team is chosen. Of much more relevance at this stage is the news that the 16 overs he bowled on Wednesday have done no damage to his ankle as he continues his rehabilitation from surgery.
He will be needed to bowl again soon. After a day restricted by rain to 65 overs, Lancashire still trail by 17 runs with only one wicket in hand, which was not what they envisaged at 60 for 0 overnight.
Somerset, far from struggling in the absence of Andrew Caddick, have bowled well, although in overcast, damp conditions, batting was more difficult for Lancashire than it had been for their opponents.
Mark Turner, the former Durham seamer, found some good inswing to remove Iain Sutcliffe and Mal Loye before lunch and moved one away to see off Stuart Law in the afternoon. Charl Willoughby slanted one across Brad Hodge and, later, in between heavy showers, Ben Phillips made swing work in his favour by bowling Sutton and Saj Mahmood with consecutive balls.
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