Flintoff enjoys return to big stage
9:26pm Sunday 24th August 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Andrew Flintoff savoured his return to the big stage with Lancashire in the NatWest T20 Blast final but admitted: "If we'd won it would have been a hundred times better."
The former England captain was expected to be little more than a big name cheerleader on Saturday at Finals Day, having played just two matches since coming out of retirement this summer, but he was thrust into the spotlight after Kabir Ali was injured in the semi-final win over Hampshire.
It led to an emotional evening for Flintoff, as the 36-year-old dismissed Birmingham Bears batsman Ian Bell with his first delivery and went desperately close to winning the match with the bat, striking a pair of back-to-back sixes off Oliver Hannon-Dalby at the end of the 19th over.
Flintoff was later moved to apologise to 25-year-old Hannon-Dalby, after having a pop at the bowler as adrenaline rushed through his system.
The potential of a match-winning innings had entered Flintoff's mind, and he blames that for blurring his judgement when he aimed a verbal volley at the bowler he had just carted over the ropes twice.
"I had one of those horrible things where my eyes went a little bit, and I started to get really into it," Flintoff said.
"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?'."
In the end, Flintoff and Lancashire fell short as Birmingham lifted the trophy on their home ground of Edgbaston with a dramatic four-run victory over the Lightning.
"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," Flintoff said.
"If we'd won it would have been a hundred times better."
Speaking on his Flintoff and Holcroft podcast, Flintoff detailed how 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 added.
When Kabir was ruled out of the final, the door opened.
"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'."
Bell, a former England colleague of Flintoff's, was thrilled by Birmingham's success.
He said on the ECB YouTube channel: "T o win Finals Day is huge but to do it at home is unbelievable.
"The guys should enjoy it over the next couple of weeks. It was a great day for Warwickshire.
"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."