There has been no greater demonstration of character this summer than Nasser Hussain's two innings in this remarkable fourth Test match. A broken thumb followed by a broken finger kept him out of three of the summer's first five Tests.
He was determined to come back for this Headingley Test even though his only chances for practice had been a brief appearance for Essex's Second XI and a short knock in the National League – hardly an ideal preparation for a County Championship match let alone a game against Australia.
Hussain showed what he is made of in the first innings when he batted for two and a quarter hours, putting on 91 with Mark Butcher. He had looked more composed and at ease with himself than he had for a couple of years. He hit seven fours and played some handsome strokes.
This innings on its own was a triumph for it revealed an unusual mental toughness which it was by no means certain that he would again find after the bad luck he had suffered. It also argued a very clear, uncluttered mind and a marked degree of confidence in his own ability to succeed when so seriously short of practice.
This innings would have been a bonus for England even if he had failed in the second, but now he was to do even better. When he emerged from the pavilion on this fifth morning with England in considerable distress at 33 for 2, the pressure on Hussain was greater than ever. But, as he settled in, his body language spoke of the strength he had gained from that first innings.
He played calmly and quietly refusing to allow either the Australian bowlers or the situation to get to him. He seemed to draw strength from Butcher's forthright start at the other end and he soon launched himself into some lovely cover drives of his own. There was never the slightest sign of any nerves.
When, on either side of lunch, Butcher had more of the strike and raced ahead of Hussain he refused to let it worry him. He spent a long time in the 30s and showed his experience by giving his partner the strike whenever he could. Every inch the England captain, he was content to bide his time and to do his best to make sure that there was no slip-up.
He then faced Brett Lee, who was bowling extremely fast from the Kirkstall Lane end. With a delicate touch he ran a short ball to third man for four and then went to his 50th when he deliberately upper-cut Lee over backward point for four.
Hereabouts Hussain was beginning to look like the batsman who took 207 off the Australians at Edgbaston four years ago. He may have been unlucky to have been given out caught behind down the leg side off Gillespie, but by then Hussain was back in serious business, which is one of the best bits of news England have had for a long time.Reuse content