Somerset 238 Lancashire 60-0: Flintoff shines to improve hopes of quick Test return

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The Independent Online

Never mind the trials of Michael Vaughan, the good news for England is that Andrew Flintoff continues to look in fine fettle. After a reintroduction against Surrey last week that was necessarily managed carefully, Lancashire let out the leash a little more yesterday. As a result, the all-rounder's prospects of playing in the first Test against New Zealand on 15 May can only have improved.

Six months on from the fourth operation on his left ankle, Flintoff sent down two spells of eight overs from the Stretford End with no sign of discomfort and might have had two wickets in each had Lancashire not been seemingly keen to boost Marcus Trescothick's well-being as well.

The former England opener, playing his first Championship innings since declaring his international career over, opened his season with a typically forceful 77 but only after he had been dropped on 10, 32 and 46, the last twice off Flintoff. Brad Hodge at gully, and then the leg-spinner Simon Marshall at backward point, failed to do the necessary as Trescothick tested his luck against an attacking field.

Flintoff's luck improved in the afternoon as Peter Trego edged a drive to the wicketkeeper Luke Sutton and Craig Kieswetter succumbed leg before to an inswinger. Trescothick's ran out when he edged James Anderson to Stuart Law at second slip, but then it was the Lancashire captain who had been responsible for his first escape, off the same bowler.

Otherwise, only Ian Blackwell scored significantly, lofting a couple of sixes as Marshall had his first Championship bowl since August 2006. After deciding to first before an overcast morning gave way to sunshine, Somerset will feel they should have done better than 238, although given Trescothick's good fortune and Justin Langer's cheap dismissal, it could have been worse.

Lancashire bowled well on a pitch that required accuracy. Without Andy Caddick, still recovering from a back operation, Somerset will struggle to contain Lancashire's reply, which stands at 60 without loss after Paul Horton and Iain Sutcliffe safely negotiated 20 overs last night.