Hundreds of cricket fans were bowled over to see sport ace Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff back on his old stomping ground on a sundrenched day few will forget in a hurry.
The former England captain returned to the ground on Saturday where he started as a junior ahead of a return to the Lancashire team following five years out in retirement.
The match was a warm-up for the 36-year-old all rounder who has signed for this season’s NatWest T20 Blast competition with Lancashire Lightning squad.
Young cricketers, Flintoff’s old team-mates and a scores of supporters all turned out to watch as he starred with the ball, taking three wickets, but could only muster two with the bat.
“Awesome,” said Joe Shallcross, 75. “It’s great for the club to have him back, he was always good.”
Neil Bradley, junior cricket chairman at the club, said: “It’s been talked about for years that he’d come back and play for us and it’s finally happened, it’s brilliant.”
Flintoff’s return, having last played at the ground back in 1996, saw spectator numbers swell to upwards of 500 on the sunny Saturday.
“It’s not every day you get to see a former England cricket captain play,” said David Smith, 38.
Club regular John Kettlestring, 69, said he knew years ago Freddie was destined for big things. He said: “I saw him playing here when he was 11 and then he just blossomed,” he said.
“And he’s a hell of a nice lad, it’s nice to see him back, it must be fantastic for the younger ones here to see him.”
Freddie proved an inspiration to the club’s youth team players who were out in force to watch him.
James Bradley, 10, said: “It’s very exciting – he bowls so fast.”
His cousin Alex Bradley, 13, added: “It’s good to watch him, we can learn from him. If I keep trying I could get to where he was. I think the other team are a bit scared when he bowls to them.”
Brian Morris, 65, who travelled over from Southport to watch the match, agreed. He said: “I bet the other team were nervous, to have five ounces of leather coming at you at 80mph,” he said.
And it certainly played it’s part as Fylde Cricket Club won the Northern League match with two wickets.