Butcher revives England hopes but fielding lapses cost them dear
England's hopes of saving the Second npower Test were hanging by a thread tonight after an exasperating day of errors and brittle performances.
By the close, a partnership between Mark Ramprakash and Mark Butcher had removed the possibility of the match ending inside three days after they put on 96 for the fourth wicket.
Butcher, who was called up for the Edgbaston Test as cover for the injured Michael Vaughan and Graham Thorpe, was heading for his first century in 27 Test innings with 73. His brother-in-law Alec Stewart was keeping him company but England were still 51 runs behind with the score 163 for four.
The third day - the 20th anniversary of England's historic win over Australia at Headingley in 1981 - started on an ominous note when Butcher dropped a simple slip catch in the second over of the morning which would have had Adam Gilchrist back in the hutch for 13. It was a devastating waste of opportunity and from that point on, an uncharacteristic clumsiness pervaded England's efforts in the field.
Gilchrist was dropped another three times during the morning session. Once on 33 by Ian Ward at cover, again on 49 by Butcher - a difficult chance - and most remarkably of all, on 73 by Michael Atherton, who rarely makes a mistake at first slip.
With each fumble and tumble, Gilchrist looked more incredulous and when he finally departed in the second over after lunch for 90, he will have thanked his lucky stars that he came so close to making a second consecutive Test century.
He went with all guns blazing, trying to hook Darren Gough, 17 overs into the new ball spell, to leave the total on 387, and the lead over England a hefty 200. They had increased both by 14 runs when Andrew Caddick struck for the fifth time in the innings and wrapped it up with the wicket of Brett Lee to bowl out the tourists for 401, the same score as at Headingley '81.
Caddick's figures were 5-101 and he made a particularly good impression finding extra bounce with the new ball while Gough finished with 3-115, but it would have been six if three of the dropped catches had stuck.
England urgently needed a strong start to their second innings to offset the possibility of defeat in three days but Marcus Trescothick was caught behind for three in the sixth over. His lack of footwork made him vulnerable to the Australian pacemen but it was Jason Gillespie, for the second time in the match, who claimed his wicket.
Australia were also having a relative nightmare in the field which gave Michael Atherton a second life on two. Matthew Hayden diving to his left saw the ball tumble out of his hand after shooting off the edge of Atherton's bat.
Atherton looked steady against Australia's new ball attack, hooking when the opportunity allowed and passing Lord Cowdrey's tally of 7624 Test runs to go into fourth on the all time list of England's leading run scorers. But the introduction of Shane Warne into the attack saw a lapse in concentration and having faced 45 balls and hit three boundaries, he was bowled around his legs for 20.
His demise brought Butcher and Ramprakash together and with the score on 47 for two, they took responsibility to recover and rebuild. The campaign started slowly but with Butcher taking the lead the pair gradually gained in confidence. Ramprakash brought up the 50 partnership and England's 100 with a well timed square drive and settled down to eliminate the demons that have wrangled whenever he appears for England at Lord's.
But having taken his total to 40, his highest Test score at Lord's, he was trapped leg before to Gillespie, just seven overs from the end.