Butcher: 'Everything went so well I think I'll buy a Lottery ticket'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Nasser Hussain would be best pleased if he could take Lord's with him wherever England play. It's the swing that does it. "When it's swinging around we're a pretty good side," he said. "Trouble is that 80 per cent of Test cricket is played on flat pitches."

This was the skipper subdued, even after a three-day win. Not because he had taken the victory for granted. He and Duncan Fletcher had insisted that they must remain thoroughly professional. And so they did. He was proud of the performance but he was also very tired. "Today was a long, long day and the boys are exhausted," he said. Early estimates suggested that, while the last day at Melbourne in 1999 was the longest day in Test cricket, this one might take a medal.

Hussain admitted he had been in a bit of doubt about asking for the extra half-hour. It was 7.15pm and the light was fading. He asked umpire Dave Orchard if they could play on if he only bowled Ashley Giles and Mark Butcher.

It is as well he did not ask Butcher, who is a reluctant bowler. This was his first outing with the ball this season. He was dreading being asked to perform so soon, but the first innings was fine: five overs, only eight runs and one wicket. The second innings was more of an ordeal. As a swing bowler he was suddenly indispensable. Even before the extra time he had toiled through 10 overs and taken three significant wickets. Travis Friend victimised Butcher in the dark, taking 10 off an over before edging him to second slip. His figures were 4 for 60, making match figures of 5 for 68 ­ rather better than James Anderson's.

"I don't think Mark will be getting out of bed early in the morning,"said Hussain. Butcher, who had scored a hundred and taken good catches as well as his five wickets was, of course, Man of the Match. "I had a bit of luck along the way, but everything went so well I think I'll go out an buy a Lottery ticket," he said.

As might Anderson. Back in the Thirties an old booby went to the Soviet Union and said: "I have seen the future and it works." The Zimbabwean batsmen would have been in no doubt that the future of England's fast bowling worked yesterday. Anderson, Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard ­ are they the future? Will it work? Anderson can create the drama. Batsmen fear Harmison's speed. Hoggard swings the ball late. He is the least fast, although if you are hit in the groin by one of his deliveries, as Dion Ebrahim was at the start of the second innings, 80mph must seem very fast.

If the future belongs to youth, England have got that. Hoggard is 25, Harmison 24, and Anderson will not be 21 until the end of July. When their selection was announced, much was made of a meagre 23 Test appearances between them ­ Anderson was making his debut. Some debut. His name will be inscribed on the famous board that records Test five-fors in the England dressing-room.

They behave towards each other like the best friends, but even friends are allowed to wonder whether the most successful of them hasn't been a bit lucky. When Anderson began his last spell in the first innings, his figures were 1 for 68, and the bright vision of his future was clouding over. But the last four wickets all fell to him for five runs, transforming his figures in 27 minutes.

Before Anderson's purple patch, Hoggard performed like the anchor of the attack. He had had a cruel winter in Australia, where he mislaid his ability to swing the ball. Harmison had taken his opportunity at Hoggard's expense, but he came into this game with an unprepossessing Test average of 41.07. Caddick may return, but not for long. Andrew Flintoff will come into the team when he is fit, but yesterday's heroic trio are all among the contenders, and we had better not forget Simon Jones.

At Lord's next May when England face New Zealand we may see one, but maybe not both, of Hoggard and Harmison, and possibly neither. What we saw yesterday was not quite the future, even though it worked.