IT had all been – as William Shakespeare once observed – much ado about nothing.
After all the hype and hullabaloo, Andrew Flintoff did not make his return in the Roses game at Old Trafford last night.
Deemed not quite ready on the eve of the match, the former England all-rounder must wait to return to Lancashire colours five years after his last appearance.
It was a shame for the near sell-out 16,000 crowd, many of whom had bought tickets in the hope of watching the big comeback, but it did not detract from the overall spectacle as Yorkshire beat Lancashire by five wickets.
Deprived of one star turn, the fixture had plenty of others – not least Yorkshire’s Aaron Finch.
The Australian right-hander – the world’s No.1-ranked T20 batsman – has been signed with the specific intention of trying to help Yorkshire win the competition.
If he keeps playing like he did last night, they certainly have a chance, his 88 from 55 balls with eight fours and five leg-side sixes a match-winning effort.
After Lancashire scored 179-6 from their 20 overs, an imposing total, Finch helped to take it down with clinical efficiency, his innings the seventh-highest for Yorkshire in T20 and their best for four years.
The 27-year-old, who hit a T20 international world record 156 against England at Southampton last summer, wielded his bat like a demented woodcutter, smiting the ball to all corners of the stadium.
His favoured shot was over cow corner, a shot that Lancashire fed by bowling too full to him as he knocked the bowlers off their lengths.
Jordan Clark, the 23-year-old medium-pacer, who was sporting a dyed red beard, had a face to match after Finch struck him for two huge sixes towards The Point.
One of the maximums cannoned into the windows of the impressive facility, sending the corporate guests scurrying for cover.
But it was far from a one-man show as Yorkshire held their nerve in a thrilling finish.
When Finch fell to the first ball of the 18th over, slashing a delivery from Tom Smith to Junaid Khan at backward-point, there were still 36 runs needed from 17 balls.
But Jonny Bairstow hit an unbeaten 19 and Rich Pyrah was undefeated on 10 after he sealed the win with three deliveries to spare when he hit Kabir Ali for six over cover.
Yorkshire were helped by the addition of six penalty runs in the dying stages as Lancashire failed to bowl their overs in time.
After Lancashire won the toss in sunny conditions, they were given a flying start by Tom Smith, who treated the crowd to some sizzling strokeplay.
The 28-year-old left-hander lofted Jack Brooks for a huge six over square-leg, the ball almost thudding into a giant NatWest inflatable pig, and then pummelled the next two deliveries for four down the ground.
In the next over, the fifth of the innings, Smith creamed four successive fours off Pyrah to reach his half-century from 22 deliveries. It equalled Lancashire’s fastest fifty in the tournament.
Pyrah recovered to have the other opening batsman, Alex Davies, held at mid-off from the final ball of the over, but after the six power play overs Lancashire’s total stood at 65-1.
Yorkshire needed someone to drag the situation back and they found him in the form of Adil Rashid.
The leg-spinner, so often a potent weapon in this form of the game, got the all-important wicket of Smith for 55 with the aid of one of the most remarkable pieces of fielding one could possibly witness.
When Smith lofted high towards the long-off boundary, Adam Lyth leapt above the rope and somehow flicked the ball back in mid-air and into the grateful hands of Finch following-up.
It was a classic example of teamwork at its best, the product of tremendous athleticism and anticipation.
Rashid struck again when he had Karl Brown caught and bowled to leave Lancashire 80-3 in the 11th over, the spinner not conceding a single boundary on his way to 2-22.
England’s Jos Buttler hit 19 before holing out to long-on, while captain Paul Horton top-scored with 60 from 45 balls with six fours.
Steven Croft chipped with an unbeaten 21, Oliver Robinson taking 2-26 from three overs.
After Andrew Gale was bowled on the charge in Yorkshire’s reply, Finch and Alex Lees added 99 from 69 balls before Lees was bowled for a splendid 36.
Lyth was bowled aiming to leg and Tim Bresnan run-out, but Yorkshire clinched a famous win.