Considering that around this time last year Mark Butcher's England career looked over the Surrey opener has not done too badly.
Considering that around this time last year Mark Butcher's England career looked over the Surrey opener has not done too badly. Indeed, since being recalled as a second choice replacement for Mark Ramprakash for the first Ashes Test against Australia, he has not even glanced over his shoulder.
The Surrey left-hander has turned the old 'hero to zero' cliché on its head and his performance yesterday had echoes of his gritty unbeaten second innings hundred at Headingley last year, that helped England to victory.
This, the fourth hundred of his Test career, hardly ranks with that match-winner, lacking the excitement, the panache and the ever present sense of danger that the Aussies bring to their cricket. But it still fell into the category of match-saver (along with the rest of England's upper order second time around) and it certainly helped England achieve the notable landmark of passing 500 in the second innings for only the fifth time in their history.
This was the 22nd instance in 39 Tests that Butcher's second innings score has surpassed his first knock and afterwards he admitted that he had learned something.
"Like the rest of the guys I was a bit disappointed with the first innings performance, where we did not have to take any risks, or do anything flashy on this track," he explained. "You can let the bowlers come to you and we have learned that from the first innings."
He was therefore understandably up-beat about the prospects for the rest of the series, and England's potential to grind their way back into contention in a match. "We can carry the confidence from this Test into Edgbaston next week and that is important," he said. "But it has not been easy. We were never in a position where we could try for a win."
However, as the Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya pointed out: "It would have been a different story had Muttiah Muralitharan been in the side." Indeed it might, but he wasn't.Reuse content