By Rob Barnett
Andrew Flintoff has “lifted” an already buoyant Lancashire Lightning side, according to his team-mate Ashwell Prince.
Flintoff’s much-publicised return to competitive cricket finally happened on Sunday and he was part of a brilliant Lightning display that saw them usurp opponents Worcestershire Rapids atop the NatWest T20 Blast North Group.
Flintoff’s ferocious batting was not required, partly due to Prince’s 68, as Lancashire amassed 229 for four, their highest Twenty20 score.
However, the powerful paceman took two important wickets to limit Worcestershire to 179 for seven on a New Road featherbed.
Flintoff is again set to feature this evening versus Leicestershire Foxes at Grace Road. Victory for the Lightning, and other results going their way, could see them reach the quarter-finals today with two games to spare.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, former South Africa star Prince said: “Fred is one of those characters that in every environment that he’s in, he lifts the place up.
“The moment he walks in, he lifts it up. Obviously he’s going to have a positive impact on our environment and we’re enjoying it.
“He’s just that kind of character. The game needs characters and we’re fortunate to have him with us and we’re really enjoying his company at the moment.”
Prince, at 37 a year older than Flintoff, was not surprised by Lancashire’s mammoth score versus Worcestershire.
It is something an in-form batting line-up, with Flintoff to bolster it, has been threatening.
“It’s nice to have Fred back in the mix, back in the changing room and back playing again,” Prince added. “But, having said that, the team have been playing very well in the Twenty20 format.
“I think that, combined with a good pitch, it was probably just a matter of time before we put up a big score like that.
“The batting line-up is quite a powerful batting line-up. My job is to try my best to get us off to a half-decent start and then we have people like Tom Smith, Steven Croft and Jos Buttler, guys who can hit the ball miles, all in very good form at the moment.
“So if we get off to a decent start and we’ve got those guys coming in later on, you’re always in with a chance of getting a massive score.”
NatWest T20 Blast fact
* Lancashire Lightning are unbeaten in their last six Twenty20 matches against Leicestershire Foxes, winning four and tying two – two of the last six ties in English T20s have been between these teams.