Flintoff feeling good
Andrew Flintoff was heartened by his first-class comeback with Lancashire and hopes his latest return from ankle surgery will be one of permanence.
Flintoff has pinpointed an England recall for the Lord’s Test against New Zealand next month and was more impressive with the ball than his respectable figures of 28-6-72-1 in the County Championship draw with Surrey suggested.
Having had a proper pre-season, following a fourth operation on his left ankle, Flintoff came into the fixture confident of getting through his bowling workload.
“From a fitness point of view I thought I kept my pace up all the way through my spells, maybe there is a little bit more in there but not a great deal,” said Flintoff, part of an attack taken for hundreds by Mark Ramprakash, Mark Butcher and Usman Afzaal.
“It was quite a placid pitch and it was about focusing on getting it in the right areas given the players they’ve got in their team.
“I have always been confident coming back but when you’ve had four operations you have a bit more knowledge about your ankle.
“I just turned up here to play a game of cricket under no concern about how my fitness was going to be.”
Problems in previous returns have not surfaced immediately, however, so England’s hierarchy will no doubt balance their pleasure at his participation with a measure of caution.
“Coming out of the operation, hopefully it is cured clinically, but from a workload point of view, I have come back from the previous operations and played for a period of time.
"Maybe if I played for a period of time, for 10 or 12 months, and break the cycle of bowling 150 overs, 200 overs and then breaking down I will be happy,” Flintoff added.
“But I am going to have to keep working on my ankle, my left leg and calf in particular. So I will probably be on some sort of rehab programme now for the rest of my career.”
England captain Michael Vaughan offered his support to Flintoff’s international return at the soonest possible opportunity in midweek.
But the Lancastrian all-rounder will need to score some runs to persuade the selectors he is ready for the step up to Test level, which he last featured in during the 2006-07 Ashes.
He managed just 23 before perishing to spinner Saqlain Mushtaq moments before a premature close for bad light.
“It was my first knock outside in England for a while,” Flintoff said. “I started off alright, got a few out of the middle, was perhaps a little bit anxious and got a half-decent ball from Saqlain, a doosra, which I went pretty hard at, and just passed it to slip.
“I would love to be involved on May 15, there is obviously no change there, but I know I have to perform. It’s nice to get 28 overs under my belt and bowl quite nicely but I have to score some runs as well, which I am working hard to do and fully aware of.”
World cricket’s landscape has altered somewhat since Flintoff was last a regular fixture in an England side but he is concentrating on events closer to home rather than competing with Indian Premier League stars such as Brendon McCullum and Michael Hussey.
“There are a lot more important things on my agenda at the moment: playing for Lancashire, performing for them, and getting back into the England side,” he said.
“The IPL has been on in the dressing room and it looked great fun. We watched McCullum belt it to all parts and 'Mr Cricket' (Hussey) getting a hundred as well.
“But it is not something that is a major concern of mine at the moment.”