New Zealand v England, 3rd T20, Wellington

New Zealand's comeback trend

Ian Butler's first New Zealand appearance in more than two years was a resounding success as he claimed 2 for 9 and revived his international career

Andrew McGlashan

February 14, 2013

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Ian Butler took two wickets on his return to international cricket, New Zealand v England, 2nd T20, Hamilton, February 12, 2013
Ian Butler claimed two key wickets on his international return © Getty Images
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Recent New Zealand comebacks have not been restricted to Ross Taylor. There is something of a pattern at the moment. Players are returning to the international game after considerable gaps in their careers, often long enough to instil thoughts that their top-level days are over.

That may be a reflection on the other options available to the selector and that they do not consider some of the younger players ready, but it also shows how quickly fortunes can change.

Firstly, in South Africa, Grant Elliott was a surprise call-up to the one-day squad, more than two years after his previous ODI, when injury ruled out Corey Anderson. Elliott proceeded to play a key role in New Zealand's surprise 2-1 series victory, providing a calm, experienced head in the middle-order that had been dismantled in the Test matches.

Now, during the Twenty20 series against England, it has been the turn of Ian Butler to revive his career, again following a gap of two years. Butler, who made his Test and ODI debut against England during their 2002 visit, considered moving himself to England for a county deal when his New Zealand chances appeared to have diminished.

An ankle injury delayed his comeback by a match, when he was forced to miss the opening game in Auckland, but in Hamilton he produced a match-winning display of 2 for 9 from four overs.

His wickets were the explosive pair of Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan during a spell Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, called "outstanding". There was nothing magical in what Butler produced, but perhaps that was his secret as he did not experiment too much on a surface offering the seamers assistance under the floodlights.

"I thought two for nine off four overs against any opposition, let alone an opposition that possess the quality these guys do, was fantastic," McCullum said. "He was nervous last game. He'd been in the wilderness, so to speak, for a little but he performed incredibly well. He's certainly earned his recall for his domestic performances this year and I think he rode the confidence of how he's performed domestically this year, so it was great.

"He's an experienced player but he was still nervous, but to be able to execute as well as what he did in the game the other day was great and I'm sure he's looking for another consistent performance in this game."

New Zealand have rarely wanted for a good collection of medium or medium-fast bowlers and they are certainly well stocked at the moment. Mitchell McClenaghan has made a successful start to his international career, Trent Boult is a lively swing bowler and Tim Southee is currently playing his first domestic match following the thumb injury that ruled him out of the tour of South Africa and the early stages of England's visit.

Kyle Mills returns for the one-day series, Doug Bracewell will be part of the Test attack and Neil Wagner, another left-armer, was part of the team in South Africa. The one fading light appears to be Chris Martin, who could have played his last Test when he appeared in Cape Town.

For Butler, though, it will require a change of heart from the selectors for the Wellington T20 not to be his last outing against England for the time being. He is not part of the one-day squad and is unlikely to find a place in the longer formats. Still, when further international honours appear to have passed you by, any second chance is gratefully received.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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