Butcher falls in late twist to day
England 154 for 3 (Hussain 41*, Thorpe 1*) trail West Indies 311 (Smith 108, Hinds 84) by 157 runs
Nasser Hussain and Mark Butcher had to call on every ounce of their Caribbean experience, as England grafted their way into a challenging position on the second day of the first Test at Kingston. Faced with a ferocious onslaught from West Indies' two young firebrands, Fidel Edwards and Tino Best, Hussain and Butcher batted throughout the afternoon session to carry England to 154 for 3 at the close, in reply to West Indies' 311.
Had it not been for a tempestuous 20-minute mini-session, almost two hours after a heavy downpour had all but ended the day's play at tea, England's situation might have been even better. Instead, in the 3.1 overs that were possible, Mark Butcher was caught behind for 58 to give Edwards his third wicket of the innings, and West Indies had gained a unexpected reward for their wholehearted efforts.
It might have been reward at a cost, however, as Brian Lara had to leave the field with a dislocated finger when he dropped Butcher at second slip, moments after becoming involved in a heated conversation with the umpires. Lara was taken to hospital for a precautionary x-ray on the little finger of his right hand, but is expected to be able to bat.
Butcher's wicket - caught behind by Jacobs two balls after his escape - brought to an end a 119-run third-wicket stand with Hussain, who battled through to the close with 41 not out. They had come together with the score at 33 for 2, and the reception they both received would have evoked memories of that tortuous morning at Kingston six years ago. With the speedometer nudging 94mph on occasions, Edwards used his low slingy action to whistle bouncers past half-formed hook-shots, and spear yorkers deep into the batsmen's blockholes, while Tino Best - who has yet to take a Test wicket, but has several genuine scalps to his name already - made it his mission to cause the batsmen as much discomfort as possible.
Edwards had already blown away both openers in the space of two overs: Marcus Trescothick, whose feet haven't started moving yet on this tour, was bowled for 7 off the inside edge of his limp bat (28 for 1), before Michael Vaughan, with a casual flick and a crisp drive to his name already, was tempted to chase an outswinger and deflected a simple catch straight into Lara's midriff (33 for 2).
Butcher, playing in his first match since he twisted his ankle against Jamaica, was especially sketchy early on. In fact, he very nearly registered his second golden duck in successive Tests at Sabina Park, as he fended Edwards away with a combination of bat and thigh, and watched the ball dribble inches past his off stump. And things got worse before they could get better. He was dropped when 4 by Ramnaresh Sarwan at forward short leg, and was sent to lunch with his ears ringing when Best clobbered him flush on the side of the helmet.
Meanwhile Hussain was all grit and grimace, playing low and late and concentrating purely on survival. He too was extremely fortunate to survive his first delivery - a booming outswinging yorker from Edwards that just flashed past his off stump - and Best followed that up with a brute of a bouncer that clipped the elbow and cracked into the helmet. Some of Hussain's body language implied that the pitch was beginning to misbehave, but as the shine came off the Kookaburra ball and the menace went out of the attack, he too began to take some liberties, clipping Collymore for four midway through the afternoon, before hooking Edwards to the fine-leg boundary.
But Best was strangely ignored by Lara throughout most of the afternoon, and Butcher capitalised on his absence, bringing up his half-century with a clip for three through midwicket. Hussain reached tea on 40 not out, after picking up his scoring rate in the closing overs of the session, when he came down the track to drive Chris Gayle for four. Gayle's introduction was a welcome change of tempo for England, and might have been influenced by the bank of menacing clouds that eventually swamped most of the evening session.
Earlier, England had needed just 12 deliveries to wrap up the West Indian innings, without any addition to their overnight 311. In the second full over of the day, Andrew Flintoff grabbed a sharp left-handed chance low at second slip to remove Edwards for 1, giving Matthew Hoggard his third wicket of the innings. But West Indies needed just 19 balls, late, late in the afternoon, to get the breakthrough they deserved.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.