May 23, 2003

England take charge

Close Zimbabwe 48 for 1 (Ebrahim 40*) trail England 472 (Trescothick 59, Butcher 137, McGrath 69, Giles 52, Streak 3-99, Blignaut 3-96) by 424 runs

Wisden Verdict | Roving Reporter



Mark Butcher celebrates his hundred
© Getty Images
Mark Butcher's seventh century put England in a commanding position on the second day of the first npower Test at Lord's. Butcher made 137, the highest Test score by an England batsman against Zimbabwe, and capitalised on his good luck under the clouds yesterday, when he was dropped and escaped a confident leg-before shout. Anthony McGrath's handy 69, in his first Test innings, and Ashley Giles's maiden half-century lifted England to 472, a formidable total on a pitch where the ball moved around all the time, especially when the clouds massed.

Zimbabwe faced 17 overs before bad light meant a slightly early close, and reduced the deficit by 48 runs, most of them scored by Dion Ebrahim. The man out was Mark Vermeulen, who had made just a single in an opening stand of 20 when he misjudged one from James Anderson that moved down the slope and clipped the off bail. It was Anderson's first Test wicket, in his third over.

Butcher's innings was increasingly masterful as the day wore on and the sun came out. In all he lasted for 380 minutes and 256 balls, and stroked 21 fours and one six, an effortless pick-up sweep off the left-arm spin of Raymond Price. It finally took a special catch to end a special innings. Butcher on-drove Price uppishly towards mid-on, but Vermeulen at shortish midwicket dived across, thrust out his right hand, and the ball stuck (342 for 6).

At the other end McGrath impressed on his Test debut. He scampered a risky single to get off the mark, but after that picked the bat up straight and played largely through the V. He had McGrafted his way to 69, with nine fours, putting on 66 with Giles before Sean Ervine sneaked one through the gate for his first Test wicket (408 for 7). Two balls later Ervine had another scalp, when Steve Harmison's attempted off-drive flew to Ebrahim at square leg (408 for 8).

Giles put Ervine in his place with a pulled six, then ducked out of the way of an unintentional beamer. He galumphed past his previous-best Test score of 45, and completed a maiden half-century before, with last man Anderson at the other end, stepping away to Andy Blignaut and losing his leg stump. He should have been out before: when only 3, he edged Heath Streak to first slip. But Vermeulen, so impressive earlier, somehow floored a simple looping catch. Giles went on to 52, and put on 57 with Matthew Hoggard, who had made 19 when he sliced the energetic Blignaut out to Ebrahim at point. A catch was claimed, and referred to Neil Mallender, the TV umpire. The replays seemed inconclusive, and it was no surprise when the not-out light flashed - and more of a surprise seconds later when "Out!" came up. Mallender had presumably pressed the wrong button the first time (465 for 9).



Confident start: Anthony McGrath pulls for four on his way to a fifty on debut
© Getty Images

That completed a confusing double for the TV-replay screen. Earlier Alec Stewart just beat a fielder's return, and was confidently leaning on his bat when the message "Congratulations Zimbabwe" flashed up. Stewart looked thunderstruck, and grinned sheepishly when the message that followed said not out. He didn't capitalise, though: shortly after lunch he feathered an attempted cut off the persevering Streak to Tatenda Taibu (274 for 5). He had made 26 of a stand of 70 with Butcher.

Before lunch England had added 86 for the loss of Robert Key as the Zimbabweans wobbled the ball around in still-overcast conditions. Key had grafted to 18 before he pushed at one from Streak that left him, and was given out caught behind (204 for 4). Key looked aggrieved, and the all-seeing TV replay suggested that the noise Steve Bucknor heard was bat hitting pad on the way through.

With the ball still jagging about, the inexperienced Zimbabwean batsmen will need to bat out of their skins tomorrow if they are to make a match of this one.

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