Flintoff heroics not enough for Lancashire

Rory Dollard 07:58 24/08/2014
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Valiant effort: Andrew Flintoff.

Andrew Flintoff made a compelling return to the big stage but it was not enough to carry Lancashire to a fairytale victory in the NatWest T20 Blast final as Birmingham Bears claimed a dramatic four-run victory at Edgbaston.

Flintoff, who has played just twice since his comeback from re­tirement and has been filming a documentary about fish and chips in recent weeks, was destined for a watching brief until being called up as a late replacement for the injured Kabir Ali – and the 36-year-old was close to a dream ending.

He removed former Test team-mate Ian Bell with his first ball – cel­ebrating with his familiar arms out­stretched pose – and returned at the 11th hour to take his side to within touching distance with two muscu­lar sixes in the penultimate over.

He appeared on the cusp of a match-winning intervention but with 14 still needed from the last six balls Chris Woakes sent down a su­perb over to make sure his team won the competition for the first time.

The silverware belonged to Bir­mingham – Warwickshire’s short-form alter-ego – after they knocked off Kevin Pietersen’s Surrey in the semi-final then held off a Lanca­shire side who took what would have been a record chase in the final to the last ball.

Laurie Evans was a key perform­er, guiding his side to an imposing 181 for five with a fine 53, while Woakes, Boyd Rankin and Oliver Hannon-Dalby all turned in admi­rable showings with the ball.

But the defining image of the day is sure to involve Flintoff, appear­ing exactly five years since last pull­ing on an England shirt and long after a career of panel shows and reality television appeared to have taken him out for good.

His mark will certainly live long­er in the memory than Pietersen’s, England’s prodigal son coming and going almost without notice.

As it was, Flintoff finished stranded on 20 from eight balls, in­cluding two mighty blows off Han­non-Dalby, as Stephen Parry tried and failed to hit the final ball of the game for a match-winning six.

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