CRAIG NELSON COLUMN: Lancashire hoping to have a Blast

Freddie Flintoff

Freddie Flintoff

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , sports writer

LANCASHIRE go into today’s T20 Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston brimming with confidence that this could finally be their year.

The Red Rose have won more matches in this competition this summer than any other county yet are still waiting for their first title.

Somerset beat them in the 2005 final and the Old Trafford outfit have lost three semi-finals – in 2004, 2007 and 2011.

This year Hampshire lie in wait in the last four, with the tie due to start at 2.30pm, while hosts Birmingham Bears take on Surrey in the opening match.

Out of the final four, Lancashire go into Finals Day with the best record, having won their last seven T20 matches, and they have already notched up a victory over Birmingham in the group stages.

Their one-run triumph over Glamorgan in the quarter-finals also proved Paul Horton’s side have the mental fortitude to hold their nerve when games go down to the wire.

On paper, at least, the squad explains just why the Lightning have been so successful.

They have an extremely powerful top and middle order, posting scores of 180 or above on four occasions.

Bolton-born Karl Brown is their top scorer with 371 runs, while Steven Croft’s 76 is their best individual score.

Junaid Khan has proved to be a very effective addition to the squad, while Kabir Ali has shown a real ability to bowl tightly at the death, with both plundering 19 wickets in the competition so far.

And in Stephen Parry they have one of the best spin bowlers in T20 cricket.

Lancashire would not be Lancashire, of course, without some star names, and they certainly have that in man-of-the-moment Jos Buttler, who, along with Andrew Flintoff, has stolen the headlines this season.

The addition of Flintoff has helped stoke up interest in the Red Rose over the summer, but the flamboyant all-rounder’s decision to come out of retirement has not yet paid off with any meaningful contributions.

He has taken a few wickets here and there, but a calf injury has halted the former England captain’s progress and he has not yet clicked with the bat.

But you would not put it past the 36-year-old to roll back the years and hog the limelight again when he takes to the biggest stage the competition has to offer.

It is fair to say the decision to bring the big man back has not been welcomed in all quarters.

I think it is probably a retrograde step when you think of the effect his introduction will have had on Lancashire’s many talented young cricketers trying to progress through the ranks.

But if Flintoff can rediscover his swashbuckling best and power Lancs to their first title, it would certainly provide a fitting ending to what has been a remarkable career.

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