Flintoff gets his reward
Andrew Flintoff and Marcus Trescothick each confirmed their well-being with respective wickets and runs - but it was the recuperating all-rounder’s Lancashire team who outshone Somerset in the LV County Championship on day one at Old Trafford.
Flintoff’s 2-40 from 16 overs came in two encouragingly brawny spells as Trescothick’s Somerset were bowled out for 238 in two-and-a-half sessions after choosing to bat first.
That they managed as many as they did was principally down to Trescothick (77) and Ian Blackwell (64) - before Lancashire replied with 60 without loss by stumps in this Division One match.
Trescothick’s talent will be lost to England for the remainder of his career thanks to his much-chronicled problems with stress.
But it is hoped Flintoff may be back, after a fourth operation on his left ankle last autumn, as soon as next month’s first Test - and there was plenty to suggest in his latest performance that his comeback is on track.
Lancashire’s formidable seam attack took individual turns for bursts of wickets - although in the end theirs was a co-operative effort, swing being the main weapon with new and old ball on a fair pitch.
Most notable in the bigger picture was inevitably Flintoff, whose two quick wickets in late afternoon were just reward as he bowled at full throttle with no apparent apprehension over the possible recurrence of injury.
The upshot was that Somerset stumbled from the relative lunchtime health of 85 for two to an apologetic 195 for seven by tea - and were unable to arrest the slide significantly afterwards.
Trescothick was dropped three times before lunch, twice off Flintoff, and it was Glen Chapple who took both wickets on an initially cloudy morning.
Trescothick escaped on 10 when Lancashire captain Stuart Law spurned a regulation second-slip catch off James Anderson and on 32 when a cut shot off Flintoff still reached the boundary despite going through Brad Hodge’s outstretched fingers at gully.
Then he rode his luck once more when on 46 the same bowler had him dropped by Simon Marshall at cover.
The left-hander’s response was to blaze the next two deliveries through the off-side for his eighth and nine fours as he moved past an 82-ball fifty.
He mixed in some streaky runs among the thumping boundaries and had lost his opening partner John Francis lbw to some full-length Chapple swing in the sixth over.
Somerset captain Justin Langer then got underneath an attempted hook to be very well caught low down on the run by Sajid Mahmood on the backward-square boundary.
After a 15 minute initial delay because of overnight rain, it was soon clear Somerset’s gamble in batting first rested largely on Trescothick’s shoulders.
It transpired too that Lancashire were sufficiently confident of Flintoff’s fitness to use him in long spells.
He responded by steaming in with intent, and it was in his second stint shortly before tea that he bagged a third and fourth wicket of five in the session for Lancashire.
James Hildreth was gone in the first over of the afternoon, aiming to drive Mahmood but edging behind, and Trescothick went when he gave Law a second slip chance - off Anderson this time, and safely collected.
Peter Trego was Flintoff’s first victim, caught behind wafting at a short ball, and the all-rounder then won an lbw verdict against Craig Kieswetter with a pacy inswinger.
Blackwell stayed put, reaching an 83-ball fifty shortly after tea.
But by then leg-spinner Marshall had Ben Phillips chipping a catch to midwicket, and Mahmood nipped out two tailenders to top the charts with 3-53 to the two wickets each for his three fellow pace bowlers.
Lancashire openers Iain Sutcliffe and Paul Horton soon made batting look a simpler pastime, and by the close Somerset had used all six frontline bowling options to no avail.