Deserved success for popular player who refused to give up

In a fair world, runs would accrue only to deserving batsmen. It does not always happen.

In a fair world, runs would accrue only to deserving batsmen. It does not always happen. But in the case of Mark Butcher's second hundred of the current Test series, justice has been done. If success reflected dressing room popularity, he would be England's brightest star.

That said, Butcher's career has hardly lacked achievement, as any batsman who has not scored two Ashes hundreds would point out. Yet two years ago, he seriously considered quitting, turbulent times in his personal life coinciding with a wretched and seemingly irreversible loss of form on the field.

Dropped from the Test side in 1999, exposed for technical flaws in the following South Africa series, he drew so little encouragement from his form in 2000 that he later admitted giving serious thought to retirement. He was persuaded not to and the fruits of many hours of corrective therapy with his father, Alan, witnessed first against Australia last summer, have ripened again.

Yesterday's century took his aggregate Test runs since his comeback last summer to 1,186 from 24 completed innings, at an average of 49.40.

"I would probably have had to pinch myself to believe it was happening at the end of last summer but now, without wishing to sound big-headed, I expect to score Test runs each time I walk out to the wicket. I feel so good I'm even tempted to put off having my knee operation, although I appreciate this is probably the best time to have it if I am to be fit for the series against India."

A left knee injury, due for an operation on Tuesday, almost forced him out of this Test and had he not been playing so well he might have withdrawn.

"It was feeling very sore but I had a really good net on Tuesday and persuaded the physio to delay my fitness test until Wednesday morning. When you are in good form you really want to continue and I did not want to miss the opportunity to score more runs. I'd like to play in the NatWest Series but I appreciate that the Tests against India will take precedence. I'm contracted to the ECB and the decision will be theirs in the end."

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