Ashes Memories – Mark Butcher Leads with a Dazzler
Mark Butcher played a dazzling inning against Australia at the Oval. England left-hand batsman Mark Butcher came back from near nothingness to cement his place. This was a rare feat in cricket history, as he scored an unbeaten 173 to inspire England to a remarkable victory over Australia at Headingley, Leeds, on August 20, 2001.
The England side was completely outclassed in the previous three matches and chased down a daunting victory target of 315 runs against a potent Australian attack. This was the second-highest score England had ever made in a Test match, which they won by six wickets in 1997.
Mark Butcher, who shared an 181-run stand with skipper Nasser Hussain for the third wicket before putting on 75 with Mark Ramprakash for the fourth, dashed from the field in delight after his best Test score. Australia had made a bold decision to second the innings declaration a bit early.
The previous evening, to try and keep alive their dream of only the second 5-0 whitewash in Ashes history, we’re left wondering what might have been after reducing England to 33 for two earlier in the day. The belligerent Mark Butcher was only recalled for the series after a series of injuries to first-choice players, single-handedly taking to pieces the world’s most fearsome pace attack.
Mark Butcher was favoring lavish square cuts and front-foot drives to both sides of the wicket. Mark Butcher, who even considered retiring from the game, and Usman Afzaal ended the game in a flurry of boundaries. The pair scored 19 off a Jason Gillespie over before Butcher, suitably, ended the game with a square drive off Shane Warne.
In all, Butcher batted for five-and-a-quarter hours, hitting majestic 23 boundaries and a six just before the close of Jason Gillespie. In this inning, he faced 227 deliveries and was given just one major reprieve when he almost got himself run out. England captain Nasir Hussain, back following an injury-plagued season, helped Butcher savage the attack as 114 runs came in the first session of the fifth day and 104 in the second.
Captain Nasir Hussain was dismissed for 55 shortly before tea to make it 214 for three as Australia struggled to get back into the game. The right-handed Ricky Ponting ended a personal dreadful performance by scoring an excellent 144 at almost a run a ball and sharing in a double-century stand with Mark Waugh as Australia raced away on the first day of the match.
The Tasmanian right-hander, averaging less than eight in his last 10 innings, survived a third-ball scare before handling England’s all-seam attack. Ponting was to end with dismissal in the final hour’s play, gloving behind an Alex Tudor lifting ball after facing 154 balls. The Australian side recovered from 42 for two to close at 288 for four.
Incredibly, the tourists were seeking to go 4-0 up in the five-match series, scoring their total despite the whole of the first session being washed out by rain. Waugh, while short of his stylish best, made 72. His 221-run partnership for the third wicket with Ricky Ponting came from just 46 overs at almost five runs an over.
England captain Hussain more than played his part in spirited rearguard action as the Australia attack was given a rare workout on the second day. When bad light forced close, England was 155 for two in reply to Australia’s 447, with Hussain 45 not out and Butcher 47 not out.
The pair had put on 88 in two balls shy of 30 overs. They were still 292 runs behind and 93 short of avoiding the follow-on, but at least England’s long-suffering supporters could take some pleasure from their batting. Damien Martyn’s elegant 118, his second century in four Tests, had steered Australia to their imposing total, and when Glenn McGrath took two wickets for five runs in 13 balls, England was on the brink of a familiar collapse.
But Hussain, attacking with authority, in only his second Test of the series after Gillespie broke his finger in the first Test at Edgbaston and the left-handed Butcher held them at bay. Their batting drew place to judge after his stylish innings. “I thought they batted on this wicket’s a bit up and down.
A lot of guys have been hit on the glove, but to their credit, they were positive and played their shots. We’ve got a tough day tomorrow (a third of the match).” Earlier, Martyn’s 118 took Australia to 447 off 100.1 overs, a fast scoring rate of more than four an over. It was the 29-year-old Western Australian’s second Test century following his 105 in the series opener at Edgbaston.
The right-hander, 97, not out at lunch, brought up his hundred with an expert square-cut four off recalled left-arm fast bowler Alan Mullally. In all, he faced 135 balls, including 17 fours, before he was the last man out, advancing down the wicket only to be caught by wicketkeeper Alec Stewartafter Atherton’s first slip dropped the chance.
That unusual dismissal gave Darren Gough his fifth wicket of the innings. But he conceded 103 in the process, while new-ball partner Andrew Craddick’s three wickets cost an even more expensive 143 runs. Just about the only thing Martyn did not do well was shepherd the tail. Australia was 408 for six at lunch but lost their last five wickets for 51 runs in 58 balls.
The metronomic McGrath took seven wickets as England was bowled out for 309 in the final session on the third day, giving Australia a first-innings lead of 138. England saved the follow-on in some style on the way to their highest total of the series before Australia broke through, the last five wickets tumbling for 57.
England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart scored an elegant 76 not out after an amusing inning, including England’s most memorable shot of the series. Whereas Glen McGrath recorded his fifth five-wicket haul in Tests against England, taking his career haul to 350 wickets. The lengthy pace bowler, barely straying offline or length all day, finished with a remarkable 7 for 76, including three of the top four batsmen.
The home side had held their own for most of a topsy-turvy day, which included an hour and 40 minutes lost to bad light and rain in the afternoon, after resuming on 155 for two. When wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist gambled on another England collapse by setting the home side 315 to win, the visitors remained firmly on course for an Ashes whitewash.
The Australian captain threw down the gauntlet in disappointment after four hours of rain on the fourth day, with only 25 overs bowled. However, England, needing to score at around three an over when they started their second innings, reached four without loss before bad light forced an early close. This was the most memorable match-winning inning ever seen in England. Mark Butcher will remain proud of his personal best for the rest of his life. See the full scorecard on Cricinfo.