Butcher defends decision to accept offer of bad light

Fourth Test: Batsman denies any disagreement with captain after break enables South Africa to take initiative away from home team

This is a strange Test match, one of false leads, blind alleys, wrong turns. Even Dorothy Parker has been quoted, in a cheaper newspaper, on disagreeable ways of doing away with oneself.

It is still not clear, after six sessions, whether Graeme Smith was right to bat first. The first morning, under cloud, with the ball seaming and swinging, suggested South Africa were certain to go 2-1 down in the series. By the third session it was plain that England were in a cul-de-sac without a spinner to show them a way out.

Ray Illingworth, without being pressed, can think of a dozen wrong turns taken by English cricket in the last 25 years and expounded upon the lack of finger spinners on radio. Authority believes that the public want to see flashing blades and huge innings rather than an even contest between bat and ball. Flat, covered pitches are the requisite and the game's musicians, the spinners, are shut out. So we get a Test match containing 10 seam bowlers, a now flat surface and a formula for chronic boredom.

But who cares when the ground is full? Such is the hype surrounding modern Test cricket that most of yesterday's 15,000 crowd will have believed that this is the best form of the game.

The sight of a crowded Headingley begs a further question: Is it really worthwhile for seven county clubs to spend millions on stadia that are full, for, at most, 10 days of summer? Should not the England and Wales Cricket Board follow the Football Association and play all internationals on one London ground, The Oval if the MCC gets stroppy about Lord's? Surrey or Middlesex would have to play most of their matches elsewhere, but that may be the road for the future, taking the game out of the cities and back to the people.

To be fair to Yorkshire they do have a few interesting ideas on the future of this famous old ground. The new pavilion and entrance on Kirkstall Lane, which will swallow a large chunk of the allocated £25m, are to be offered to architects to design for a prize.

To alleviate the disappointment, and financial setback, of losing a Test match on the rota, as Leeds will during the next Australian tour, Yorkshire are proposing that the Test ground taking a rest should stage the Twenty20 final.

This would mean that neither of the permanent Test grounds, Lord's and The Oval, would ever stage a Twenty20 final, but would preserve the ECB from more arguments with the MCC about noise and lights in St John's Wood for when the cricketing events of 2003 are placed in the context of history, the probability is that the year will be remembered as the moment when cricket rediscovered a formula to appeal to the young.

Twenty20 may also be anathema to the traditionalists, but to children of the computer age, accustomed to three-hour sporting packages on television, it is a competition that is exciting and understandable. Some of the play in this Test, once the pitch subsided, has been tepid and stultifying.

Headingley Scoreboard

Second day; South Africa won toss

South Africa - First innings

(Overnight: 260 for 7)

G Kirsten c Bicknell b Kabir Ali 130

460 min, 323 balls, 17 fours

M Zondeki c Butcher b Anderson 59

190 min, 128 balls, 10 fours

M Ntini not out 32

53 min, 47 balls, 4 fours

D Pretorius c Stewart b Kirtley 9

22 min, 14 balls, 2 fours

Extras (lb20, w2, nb7) 29

Total (486 min, 114.4 overs) 342

Fall (cont): 8-292 (Zondeki), 9-316 (Kirsten).

Bowling: Kirtley 29.4-10-74-2 (w2) (7-3-13-1, 7-4-8-0, 5-0-26-0, 10-3-27-0, 0.4-0-0-1); Bicknell 27-11-50-2 (nb1) (9-6-12-1, 6-3-9-0, 5-1-11-0, 7-1-18-0); Kabir Ali 22-3-80-3 (nb3) (2-0-14-1, 4-2-6-0, 6-1-21-1, 6-0-19-0, 4-0-20-1); Anderson 18-7-63-1 (3-1-16-0, 8-4-23-0, 7-2-24-1); Flintoff 18-5-55-2 (nb3) (1-0-2-0, 5-3-17-0, 7-1-23-2, 3-0-9-0, 1-0-4-0, 1-1-0-0).

Progress: Second day: 300: 442 min, 104.4 overs. Innings closed: 12.30pm.

Kirsten 50: 242 min, 172 balls, 7 fours.

100: 328 min, 232 balls, 15 fours.

Rudolph 50: 116 min, 94 balls, 10 fours.

Zondeki 50: 136 min, 87 balls, 10 fours.

England - First innings

M E Trescothick c and b Kallis 59

178 min, 126 balls, 9 fours

*M P Vaughan b Ntini 15

32 min, 26 balls, 2 fours

M A Butcher c Boucher b Kallis 77

172 min, 115 balls, 11 fours

N Hussain not out 14

35 min, 22 balls, 3 fours

E T Smith not out 0

8 min, 3 balls

Extras (b2, lb15, w3, nb12) 32

Total (214 min, 47 overs) 197

Fall: 1-27 (Vaughan), 2-169 (Trescothick), 3-193 (Butcher).

To bat: ÝA J Stewart, A Flintoff, M P Bicknell, Kabir Ali, R J Kirtley, J M Anderson.

Bowling: Pretorius 9-0-58-0 (nb8, w1) (2-0-18-0, 4-0-19-0, 3-0-21-0); Ntini 12-3-34-1 (nb2) (7-2-10-1, 1-0-3-0, 4-1-21-0); Hall 14--2-50-0 (7-1-23-0, 4-0-18-0, 3-1-9-0); Zondeki 1.5-0-10-0 (nb1) (one spell); Kallis 10.1-1-28-2 (nb1, w2) (5.1-1-13-0, 5-0-15-2).

Progress: Second day: Lunch: 11-0 (Trescothick 5, Vaughan 4) 1 over. 50: 67 min, 14.1 overs. 100: 119 min, 26 overs. Tea: 110-1 (Trescothick 36, Butcher 33) 28 overs. 150: 161 min, 36 overs. Bad light stopped play: 4.32-5.01pm 164-1 (Trescothick 58, Butcher 63) 37.5 overs. BLSP: 5.43pm.

Trescothick 50: 161 min, 116 balls, 7 fours. Butcher 50: 114 min, 74 balls, 7 fours.

Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and S J A Taufel (Aus).

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