Fred Tunes Up For SA


Andrew Flintoff finished wicketless from 15 overs on his LV County Championship comeback for Lancashire against Sussex at Hove.

Andrew Flintoff finished wicketless from 15 overs on his LV County Championship comeback for Lancashire against Sussex at Hove but showed he could be back to fitness just in time for selection for next month's Test series against South Africa.

Flintoff, who has been tuning up with some recent Twenty20 cameos for his county after six weeks out with a side strain, conceded 43 runs, bowled a wide and two no-balls.

And he saw his team-mates benefit instead from a raft of ill-judged shots by Sussex batsmen – including top scorer Robin Martin-Jenkins who was bowled by South African Francois du Plessis attempting an outrageous pull-shot having compiled a smart 70.

Out-of-favour England quick Sajid Mahmood ended the day with five for 76, cleaning up two tail-enders while a raft of careless strokes from three higher-order batsmen rewarded his persistence.

Sussex beneficiary Martin-Jenkins, however, was still the hero of his side's 253 all-out on the first day, having been 100 for five at lunch.

Lancashire also started badly in reply, Jason Lewry removing Paul Horton and Mal Loye with successive deliveries before Martin-Jenkins had Du Plessis caught behind and Lou Vincent brilliantly pouched by Carl Hopkinson for 38 at slip.

Gary Keedy came in as nightwatchman to save Flintoff from facing the flak as the visitors ended the day on 67 for four off 27 overs.

Flintoff had been Lancashire's first change from the uphill Sea End after two wickets had already gone down.

Although conceding only nine runs from his first seven-over spell – eight of them in boundaries – he never really threatened to add to the Sussex damage which saw opener Chris Nash ridiculously run out before skipper Chris Adams and Murray Goodwin both gave away their wickets cheaply.

Matt Prior, having hit Mahmood for three successive fours, was eventually out for a snappy 30 and Michael Yardy made 25 before falling victim to a fine catch by Stuart Law who also snapped up Prior at slip.

That was where Flintoff spent much of his day but did not take a catch until moving, in between his overs, to extra cover where, after lunch, Hopkinson presented him with a real dolly at extra cover to end a promising innings of 39.

By tea, Flintoff, looking sharp and competitive – much like his old self with four operations on an ankle in less than three years now hopefully consigned to history – had unspectacular figures of of none for 38 after a second spell of seven overs.

The main aim for Flintoff, whose last Test was way back in January 2007 when Australia completed a devastating 5-0 whitewash over England in Sydney, was to get through an extended period of bowling.

Hopkinson and Martin-Jenkins saved faltering champions Sussex from another dismal day in defence of the title they have won for the last two years but now look certain to surrender after just one Championship win this summer.

The pair amassed 86 in 19 overs after lunch before Flintoff was brought back on. That made little difference to Martin-Jenkins who drove Flintoff for two crisp boundaries even though he managed to extract some lift from the benign-looking pitch and caught Hopkinson a nasty blow on the right shoulder.

Martin-Jenkins charged on to his half-century, bringing up his 50 with a square drive to the boundary off Flintoff but then Hopkinson offered that dolly chance and Sussex's innings went into decline again.

Ollie Rayner – replacing injured Luke Wright – was out for 16, hooking straight to Loye at square leg to give Mahmood his third wicket before Corey Collymore made it four with a thick edge to wicketkeeper Luke Sutton in the fourth ball after tea.

Flintoff and Mahmood came back on to try to wipe up the home tail and it was the latter who succeeded when Mushtaq Ahmed who had twice clattered Flintoff over third man for fours in the previous over was out trying it again against Mahmood.