Andrew Flintoff allowed himself the luxury of a glass of celebratory champagne after emerging from four weeks of train-ing hell to enjoy a sensational return to action.
A month after limping out of England's Third Test defeat to Sri Lanka with a recurrence of a long-standing ankle injury, Flintoff made only his s econd Lancashire appearance of the season and provided an instant reminder of why he is currently rated the number one player in the game.
In what would otherwise have been a low-key seven-wicket Twenty20 win over Nottinghamshire at Old Trafford, Flintoff braved the Manchester wind and rain to make a memorable impact with bat, ball and in the field.
His return of three wickets for four runs represented the best bowling figures from a three-over spell in the competition so far.
In addition, Flintoff launched himself to the left to take a fine catch to get rid of David Hussey as Notts were skittled out for 91. Then the 28-year-old contributed 10 in seven balls as Lancashire chased down their victory target with nearly five overs to spare.
And, though he was beaten to the man-of-thematch champagne by Dominic Cork's four for 1 6, Flintoff gladly accepted the offer of a glass from his team-mate.
"I have worked incredibly hard over the past four weeks," he said.
"I have done five or six hours a day and lost a stone in weight, partly through diet and partly through training.
"But I have not turned into a monk and if Dominic is offering me a glass of champagne, I will have one."
Flintoff is still awaiting the results of his latest s can on his ankle, although he is confident enough of playing for Lancashire in their Twenty20 encounter with Yorkshire at Headingley tomorrow before exposing himself to a more rigorous test at Kent in the Liverpool Victoria County Champion-ship on Thursday.
Providing he suffers no reaction, the all-rounder should return to the international arena at Old Trafford for the second Test against Pakistan, which starts on July 27.
However, he does accept his ankle injury is sufficiently serious to require long-term physio.
"The ankle area is weak," he said. "Most bowlers have an area of weakness and it seems this is mine.
"I have to look after it and effectively I will have to keep doing rehabilitation on it for the rest of my career."