Emirates Old Trafford looks set to be sold out on Friday as Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff makes his shock return to professional cricket.
A marketing ploy to sell seats? Or a serious return to professional sport by England's most enigmatic cricketing export since Beefy Botham? Whichever side of the fence you're on, it's impossible not to be intrigued by what unfolds this Friday at Emirates Old Trafford.
After five years of procrastination, Freddie's back in a packed out cricket stadium where he belongs. Part of the curiosity for England fans behind this development stems from a desperate morale boosting need for some good news. Their national side has largely failed to recover from the Ashes debacle both on and off the field. Another defeat, this time at the hands of the visiting Sri Lankans in an ODI series did little to ease that pain.
If managed well, there is no reason why Flintoff's return can be more than a one off season, even though that's more than likely. Some of the greatest all rounders in cricket's history played well into their late 30s. Sir Garfield Sobers played his last test at 38. Imran Khan won the 1992 ODI world cup aged 39. Only recently Jacques Kallis called time on his Test career but hopes to represent South Africa in the 2015 ODI World cup. Whilst an International return is highly unlikely, it'd be hard to ignore his services should Flintoff reach anything approaching levels of performance achieved in his heyday. That in itself isn't an impossibility. After a considerable lay off from the game Flintoff has seemingly hit the ground running after only a few months of winter training. His reflexes certainly haven't diminished as anyone who saw him take a stunning return catch at St Annes recently will testify. (See below)
Lancashire also certainly are in desperate need of a boost. Despite a decent string of results in the T20 competition their league form has been poor. They currently lie second from bottom, only a solitary win to their name from the opening seven fixtures. Success in the NatWest T20 blast therefore might be one of their only hopes of silverware this year. Flintoff could prove crucial to those ambitions.
Despite a high probability of it being an anticlimactic affair tomorrow, it promises to be a great occasion for young spectators who never had the pleasure of seeing Freddie perform in the flesh. For those that did, the following memories may well rekindle a romantic urge to tune in to see him perform once again.
Fire in Freddie's belly
Flintoff's last ODI for England in April 2009 produced a hat trick and five wicket haul.
Jacques out Kallis'd by Fred!
At the peak of his powers a pumped up Flintoff bowled a fast and hostile spell of bowling at Jacques Kallis in the final Test of the 2008 series against South Africa. Although tourists went onto win the match and the series the Edgbaston crowd will have fond memories of Freddie's exploits.
English fans will never tire of watching highlights of the 2005 Ashes. In the Trent Bridge Test against the hostility of Brett Lee and guile of Shane Warne, Freddie's hundred helped England seal a crucial Ashes victory.
How do you think Freddie will get on? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Rana Malook is HITC sports writer and you can tweet him @rararana