Nasser Hussain enjoys nothing more than proving people wrong and this is just what the former England captain managed to do here yesterday on the first day of the third Test.
Many have passed comment on Hussain's motivation and hunger to play cricket for England following his resignation from the captaincy, but when the pressure was on he gave those who doubted him 108 reasons to eat their words. In an innings that highlighted the strength of his personality and his passion for the game, Hussain, alongside Mark Butcher, who scored an equally valuable century, gave England their best day of this Test series.
It has taken England 10 days to make an impression in this five-match series against South Africa, but it is the tourists who now find themselves under pressure. After watching his side rack up 296 for 3, Michael Vaughan had every reason to look pleased on the home balcony, even if his contribution to the cause was a solitary run.
At the conclusion of England's ignominious defeat at Lord's, Vaughan had questioned the desire of his players and called upon the senior members of his team to become role models to the youngsters within his side. Following this pair of centuries, it is safe to say that Butcher and Hussain have taken on board the England captain's comments.
At a time when many of Hussain's qualities, as well as his suitability to remain in the England team, are being questioned, it was fitting that the former captain should be one of the men to lead his side out of their rut. To suggest that Hussain would ever walk to the crease in any form of cricket unmotivated shows little understanding of the man or what makes him tick. With a bat in his hand, there is no fiercer competitor or prouder man.
When Hussain completed his 13th Test century with a single to backward square leg it was clear just how much this performance meant to him. With a clench-fisted upper-cut and a shout of "Come on" to the crowd, who rose to their feet to give him a thunderous standing ovation, Hussain deservedly milked the moment for all it was worth.
He showed he meant business by driving the first ball he faced for four, but it was Butcher's innings which caught the eye. Although the left-hander lived dangerously at the start of his innings against the accurate seam bowling of Shaun Pollock - who dismissed Vaughan with a good delivery which he edged to third slip - and was fortunate to survive a couple of close lbw appeals, his movement at the crease looked controlled.
It was Jacques Kallis' introduction to the attack that allowed Butcher's innings to gain momentum. Playing in his first Test since the death of his father, Kallis erred twice in his opening over. On each occasion Butcher struck the ball to the boundary with precision. The loss of Marcus Trescothick, who edged a good ball from Andrew Hall to Mark Boucher, failed to put Butcher off as he then tucked into Makhaya Ntini, the tourists' 10-wicket hero at Lord's.
But Ntini failed to cause England's batsmen problems on this slow surface. In an attempt to try something different, the fast bowler went round the wicket to Butcher but this only gained him two warnings for running on the pitch. A third will see Ntini ruled out of the attack.
After lunch it did not appear to matter whether the bowler went over, round or through the wicket; everything that touched Butcher's bat seemed to go for four. Like Hussain's, Butcher's driving through the covers and clipping through mid-wicket were exemplary. One gorgeous shot off Kallis left the fast bowler looking dumbfounded. With his hands on his hips, he was forced to give Butcher a congratulatory nod of the head.
In conditions that offered enough assistance to keep the bowlers interested, the 189-run stand between Butcher and Hussain pair has put England in a very strong position. With the pitch already cracking up, batting is only going to become harder as the game progresses. This was an important toss for Vaughan to win.
Butcher's eighth Test century came via a clip for four and at tea England had scored 127 runs without losing a wicket in the afternoon session. That England have yet to lose a Test match when Butcher has reached three figures - they have won five and drawn two following his previous seven hundreds - will have given the team added confidence.
While Butcher and Hussain plundered the visitors' attack the next man in, Ed Smith, was nervously practising his shots on the balcony. Smith, who with James Kirtley is making his Test debut, did not have to wait long after the break for his first innings because Ntini, bowling for the first time at the Radcliffe Road End, found the outside edge of Butcher's bat.
Even though it took Smith only three balls to get off the mark, he continued to look edgy. The nerves soon went, however. By the close he looked totally at home in his new surroundings. He and Hussain will be looking for bigger and better things today.
TRENT BRIDGE SCOREBOARD
(First day of five; England won toss)
ENGLAND - First innings
M E Trescothick c Boucher b Hall 24
53 mins, 41 balls, 5 fours
*M P Vaughan c Gibbs b Pollock 1
20 mins, 13 balls
M A Butcher c Boucher b Ntini 106
237 mins, 182 balls, 21 fours
N Hussain not out 108
321 mins, 229 balls, 17 fours
E T Smith not out 40
116 mins, 77 balls, 7 fours
Extras (b7, lb5, w3, nb2) 17
Total (for 3, 375 mins, 90 overs) 296
Fall: 1-7 (Vaughan), 2-29 (Trescothick), 3-218 (Butcher).
To bat: ÝA J Stewart, A Flintoff, A F Giles, R J Kirtley, S J Harmison, J M Anderson.
Bowling: Pollock 23-9-41-1 (nb2, w1) (7-2-13-1 6-1-17-0 5-3-6-0 5-3-5-0), Ntini 21-2-81-1 (5-1-17-0 7-0-41-0 4-1-6-1 5-0-17-0), Hall 15-3-65-1 (6-1-19-1 4-1-15-0 3-1-13-0 2-0-18-0), Kallis 20-5-78-0 (w1) (7-3-18-0 7-1-36-0 6-1-24-0), Adams 11-2-19-0 (7-1-14-0 4-1-5-0).
Progress: First day: 50 in 70 mins, 15.2 overs. Lunch 85-2 (Butcher 37, Hussain 20) 28 overs. 100 in 136 mins, 28.3 overs. 150 in 187 mins, 43.1 overs. 200 in 227 mins, 54.2 overs. Tea 212-2 (Butcher 103, Hussain 72) 59 overs. 250 in 298 mins, 71.2 overs. New ball taken after 80 overs at 272-3.
Butcher 50: 128 mins, 98 balls, 10 fours. 100: 207 mins, 160 balls, 21 fours. Hussain 50: 133 mins, 89 balls, 9 fours. 100: 264 mins, 189 balls, 16 fours.
SOUTH AFRICA: *G C Smith, H H Gibbs, J A Rudolph, J H Kallis, H H Dippenaar, N D McKenzie, ÝM V Boucher, S M Pollock, A J Hall, R R Adams, M Ntini.
Umpires: D B Hair and D J Harper. TV Replay Umpire: N A Mallender. Match Referee: R S MadugalleReuse content