Flintoff relishing return

Congleton Guardian: Andrew Flintoff is looking forward to representing Lancashire again Andrew Flintoff is looking forward to representing Lancashire again

Andrew Flintoff admits his comeback could end in disappointment but the former England captain hopes to sustain his return to cricket for years to come.

The 36-year-old could line up against Yorkshire next Friday after coming out of retirement to join the Lancashire Lightning's squad for the NatWest T20 Blast.

Flintoff is expected to feature for boyhood club St Annes on Saturday in preparation for his return to the Lancashire line-up, his appearance likely to ramp up interest in the Northern League clash with Penrith at the Vernon Road ground.

Flintoff has been working on his fitness in training with Lancashire in recent months and is relishing the opportunity to get back into competitive cricket, having not played for almost five years.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I've always wanted to play for Lancashire and getting the opportunity to do that (again) I jumped at it.

"It's a massive bonus I'm in a position to play Twenty20 cricket. It's got to be for the right reasons as well. I'm playing for the reason I first started playing cricket, because I love the game and I enjoy it."

Knee trouble and wear on his body led Flintoff to retire in 2010, and he has found recently that bowling in the nets " hurts a little bit".

But he is determined not to let it prevent his return to action.

"I don't want it to be for (just) one year. I'm 36. I feel young, I behave like I'm young," Flintoff said.

"I can't guarantee performance. I might not get picked for Lancashire's first team. I've got to prove myself.

"People say it's a brave call but it's not brave - I'm going to play a game of cricket. I'm not in Afghanistan with the troops, I'm not battling illness. This is playing a game I enjoy. We'll see what happens."

In his years away from cricket, Flintoff has explored other options - including one bout of professional boxing.

He represented England in 79 Tests, 141 one-day internationals and seven Twenty20 games.

Flintoff's Lancashire Twenty20 record consists of 16 games, averaging 13.94 with the ball and 29.64 with the bat, with a high score of 93 against Derbyshire in 2009.

He was spurred to make a serious shot at returning when overlooked for a showpiece Lord's occasion this year, fielding a call from MCC head of cricket John Stephenson that left him aghast.

"I got wind of this game the MCC are playing against the World XI at Lord's in July," Flintoff said.

"One of my ambitions as a cricketer was to play in the same side as (Sachin) Tendulkar. And I thought, 'This is my chance to do it'.

"John Stephenson phoned me up and I thought the phone call was going to tell me where to turn up and who was in the side, so he was on speaker phone and the kids were in the car, and he'd phoned me up to tell me they don't want me.

"He said, 'We've got (Brian) Lara, you've not played for five years, we've got all these other people'.

"And I thought, 'Hang on a minute, he (Lara) is 10 years older than me'. I looked in the car and I saw my kids' faces, and I think it's the first time they've seen their dad being told he can't do something, and they turned round and looked at me and said, 'Never mind, there'll be other games', and I thought, 'Yeah, there will be actually'."

St Annes captain Andy Kellett announced the news to his players before Thursday night's T20 match with Fleetwood, with the younger members of the team apparently stunned to learn they will share a field with the club's most famous old boy.

Kellett said: "Andrew is as fit as a fiddle - that is why Lancashire are so happy for him to play for them again.

"We don't know how much we will use him against Penrith and we will discuss that after he arrives at the ground on Saturday.

"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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