Over the few years of his brief career Andrew Flintoff has taken more than his share of runs off the Surrey attack. There was the unbeaten hundred in the NatWest Trophy two summers ago and a memorable championship innings of 61 in 24 balls four years ago. That last one included 34 runs in an over off Alex Tudor.
Yesterday he was at it again – and how – but this time as an all-rounder, adding feats with the ball and in the field to a superb 137 from 106 balls. Thanks to him, Surrey were in a sorry state by the close, facing the prospect of having to follow-on and a marathon struggle to try to salvage something from a match they had entered full of confidence after picking up maximum points – less 0.25 of a point docked off for a slow over-rate – in their opening two championship games.
That confidence was soon being knocked by Lancashire, who had arrived here in second place. Flintoff, having battered the Surrey attack to all parts for his ninth first-class century, then hung on to a fine slip catch to account for Mark Butcher and spark a spell of three wickets in 15 balls for Glenn Chapple, before wading in with two wickets of his own.
Lancashire were helped further when the opener Ian Ward was run out, stranded after calling in vain to Alistair Brown for a quick single. Brown went in the same Flintoff over that Alec Stewart fell and Azhar Mahmood's dismissal to Kyle Hogg brought the collapse to four wickets in 15 balls.
It was a hugecontrast to Flintoff's innings. Refreshed from his compulsory break from the domestic game, the centrally-contracted player was clearly determined to make his mark in what will be a rare championship outing for him in a busy international summer.
His contribution ensured three batting bonus points and was the highlight of a bizarre day's cricket, which will see an even-tempered pitch reported for the fall of more than 15 wickets.
However, although either side could have filled their boots, it was more a case of the Lancashire batsmen tripping over their bootlaces, the only ones to escape blame were David Byas, who had his off-bail trimmed by an unplayable beauty from Tudor, and Flintoff.
He reached his first fifty from 43 balls with the help of 11 fours. The second half-century occupied 10 balls fewer, and was arrived at with the second of his three sixes and, by the time he decided to give Ian Salisbury the charge and present Stewart with his fifth victim of the innings, 98 of his runs had come in boundaries, with 20 fours and three sixes.Reuse content