Andrew Flintoff replaced Kabir Ali in the side © Getty Images

London: Aug 24, 2014

Andrew Flintoff said he had enjoyed being back in the spotlight during English county cricket’s Twenty20 finals day with Lancashire. Former England captain Flintoff was set to be nothing much more than a squad player at Edgbaston on Saturday, having played just two matches since coming out of retirement at the start of this season. But he found himself thrust into a big-match environment once again after Kabir Ali was injured in the semi-final win over Hampshire.

The 36-year-old all-rounder, whose international career ended after England’s 2005 Ashes series win following a succession of injuries, promptly dismissed former Test team-mate Ian Bell on the Warwickshire batsman’s home ground with his first ball of the final. As if that was not enough, he took Lancashire close to victory with two sixes off Oliver Hannon-Dalby at the end of the 19th over only for the visitors to lose by four runs.

Flintoff revealed on Sunday he had apologised to 25-year-old Hannon-Dalby after ‘sledging’ the bowler as the final approached its tense climax “I had one of those horrible things where my eyes went a little bit, and I started to get really into it,” Flintoff, speaking on the Flintoff and Holdcroft podcast, said Sunday.

“I started to think … ‘I can win this, I’m enjoying this, it’s brilliant this’. “I walked past him and he had a big grin on his face and he was staring at me. “I shouted at him, ‘What are you looking at?’, but I put another word in. “It’s like shouting at strangers — I didn’t even know him. I felt really bad —why have you done that?”

Flintoff added, “We gave the crowd false hope. Fair play to the Warwickshire lads afterwards. They were deserving winners and I apologised to the big lad for shouting at him. If we’d won it would have been a hundred times better.” Flintoff explained he had been training alone while filming a television show about fish and chips, taking bowling boots and a cricket ball with him on a trip to the Scottish Highlands earlier in the week.

“I practised well on Friday, and I put myself in the frame but I didn’t play the semi-final, I didn’t expect to but there was the chance if someone went down injured I’d get a game,” he said. Ali’s injury gave him his chance, not that Flintoff could quite believe it at first. “I thought, ‘how is this happening, it’s Finals Day and I’ve been frying fish for three weeks,” Flintoff said. I warmed up well and hadn’t batted since the morning, and I thought ‘I won’t get in, I’m number nine”

Meanwhile Bell said winning a trophy with Warwickshire, his native county, meant as much to him as any England success he had enjoyed. “To win Finals Day is huge but to do it at home is unbelievable,” Bell told the England and Wales Cricket Board’s YouTube channel. “The guys should enjoy it over the next couple of weeks. It was a great day for Warwickshire,” added Bell, set to feature in England’s five-match one-day series with India that is due to get underway in Bristol on Monday.

“Some of our batting in the middle was incredible. It wasn’t just brutal with power, it was clever as well. “It’s nice to pop in for one day of T20 among all the hard work of a season! Any chance I get to play for the club I love doing it. When you win a trophy it means just as much as when you win for England.”