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By Julian Guyer
London: May 31, 2014
Andrew Flintoff has revealed how being overlooked for the upcoming Lord’s Bicentenary match between Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Rest of the World spurred him on to make a Twenty20 comeback with Lancashire. The Red Rose County confirmed on Friday that Flintoff, one of their favourite sons, had been included in the squad for the county’s domestic Twenty20 campaign.
Former England captain Flintoff, in injury-induced retirement for five years, wasn’t selected to play in the team that faced Warwickshire on Friday but is in line to return at home to Lancashire‘s arch-rivals Yorkshire at Old Trafford a week on Friday.
Before announcing his comeback, the 36-year-old said he’d hoped to have been chosen for the star-studded match marking the 200th anniversary of Lord’s in July. But pace bowling all-rounder Flintoff said the effect on his children of being told he wasn’t wanted for the fixture had fuelled his desire to return to the middle.
“John Stephenson from the MCC phoned me up and I thought the call was to tell me where to turn up and who was in the side,” Flintoff told BBC Radio Five in an interview broadcast on Friday.
“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.’”
Concerns have been expressed that, after such a long time out of the game, Flintoff risks tarnishing his reputation by not being able to perform at his best.
However, he said: “I’d sooner try and have it not come off than sit at home for the rest of my days thinking I should have tried this, I should have had a go.”
“I feel young, I behave like I’m young,” Flintoff added. “It’s the easiest decision I’ve made in my career. Lancashire think I can do it, I think I can do it. I can’t guarantee performance but I’m going to have a go at this. I’ve got to prove myself.”
A powerful batsman, as well as an aggressive bowler and assured slip fielder, Flintoff played 79 Tests, 141 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and seven Twenty20 Internationals for England.
Fans’ favourite Flintoff’s greatest all-round series came when he scored 402 runs at an average of just over 40 and took 24 wickets at under 28 apiece as England regained the Ashes 2-1 in 2005.
But the subsequent Ashes saw Flintoff, miscast as England captain, lead his country to a 5-0 series defeat in Australia in 2006-07.
Even so, his international career finished with a flourish when he ran out Australia captain Ricky Ponting in the fifth Test at The Oval in 2009, a match England won by 197 runs to regain the Ashes 2-1.
For Lancashire, for whom he made his debut as a 17-year-old, Flintoff scored 4,042 runs at 35.14 and took 92 wickets at 29.16 in 80 First-Class matches.
In 16 County Twenty20 games he averaged 13.94 with the ball and 29.64 with the bat, with a highest score of 93 against Derbyshire in 2009.
Since retiring from cricket, Flintoff has appeared in a number of television programmes and even had one bout of professional boxing.
Now though he is set to go back to where it all started for him by playing for boyhood club St Annes against Penrith in the Northern League on Saturday as a means of ‘warming-up’ for his county return.
“Andrew is as fit as a fiddle,” said St Annes captain Andy Kellett. “That is why Lancashire are so happy for him to play for them again.
“It will be a bit weird for me being captain of the side when there is a former England captain in the side, but I have done it before.
“We always knew when Andrew first played here as a youngster that he would go on to much better things, though not the superstar he became.”
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