LONDON - Former England captain Andrew Flintoff has come out of retirement to join Lancashire's squad for this season's English domestic Twenty20 competition, the county announced on Friday. Pace bowling all-rounder Flintoff, 36, was forced to retire through injury in 2009, his ankles and knees having repeatedly suffered from the pounding they took as he charged in.
However, the Preston-born Flintoff has been training again with his native Lancashire, the only county side he's ever represented, in recent months and is looking forward to making a comeback he once thought beyond him. "I'm really honoured to be part of Lancashire once again," he said in a club statement issued on Friday.
"It is something that I never thought would happen but, after training with the squad over the last few months, I am really happy that they have invited me to play. I have worked really hard to get back to my fittest and I hope that we have a successful summer. I'm just glad that I can be part of it." In an interview with BBC Radio Five, Flintoff said he was revelling in playing cricket again. "When I'm in the nets I'm stood in there with a bat in my hand just grinning," he explained. "When I'm bowling it still hurts a bit, but I'm loving running into bowl and if I can take that into a game I might be quite dangerous."
Lancashire have yet to say in which match Flintoff will make his return as they bid to reach finals day at Edgbaston in August, with the county at home to Birmingham Bears (Warwickshire) at Old Trafford later on Friday before Roses rivals Yorkshire visit the following Friday. "We are delighted to have Fred involved once again at the club," said Lancashire cricket director Mike Watkinson. "He is Lancashire through and through and his record for both club and country speaks for itself," the former England international added. "'Fred' (Flintoff) has been back at Emirates Old Trafford under his own steam since the (English) winter and has been working with the Academy and in the nets with some of the other players. Over a period of time he has picked up on his physical conditioning and this continues to improve. He has shown in practice that he still has plenty of class with bat and ball."
There had been speculation Flintoff might return for Lancashire's 2nd XI in a friendly on Tuesday. Instead, he was at Headingley to train with the first-team squad before the third day of their County Championship match against Yorkshire. A powerful batsman, as well as an aggressive bowler and assured slip fielder, Flintoff played 79 Tests, 141 one-day internationals and seven Twenty20 internationals for England.
On the field, crowd favourite Flintoff's greatest all-round series came when he scored 402 runs at an average of just over 40 and took 24 wickets at under 28 apiece as England regained the Ashes 2-1 in 2005. But the subsequent Ashes saw Flintoff, miscast as England captain, lead his country to a 5-0 series defeat in Australia in 2006/07. He then fell off a pedalo boat in an alcohol-fuelled incident at the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean. But his international career finished with a flourish when he ran out Australia captain Ricky Ponting in the fifth Test at The Oval in 2009, a match England won by 197 runs to regain the Ashes 2-1. For Lancashire, for whom he made his debut as a 17-year-old, Flintoff scored 4,042 runs at 35.14 and took 92 wickets at 29.16 in 80 first-class matches.
In 16 county Twenty20 games he averaged 13.94 with the ball and 29.64 with the bat, with a highest score of 93 against Derbyshire in 2009. Since retiring from cricket, Flintoff has appeared in a number of television programmes and even had one bout of professional boxing.