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Butcher returns to form in Colombo

Graham Thorpe and Mark Butcher eased themselves back into form after their three-week break during the one-day series, but Nasser Hussain missed out, as England moved into a comfortable position on the second morning of their warm-up match in Colombo

Close England XI 225 for 5 (Butcher 105*, Jones 4*) lead Sri Lanka Cricket President's XI 181 (Perera 55*, Kirtley 4-41) by 44 runs

Mark Butcher reaches his hundred shortly before the close
© Getty Images

Mark Butcher completed his first first-class century of the winter, as England's batsmen reacquainted themselves with the middle of a cricket ground, after a frustrating week of washouts and waiting. Butcher had been worryingly out of touch during the Bangladesh series last month, but was back to his fluent best as England reached 225 for 5 at the rain-imposed close, a lead of 44.
With Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick taking a break from this match, the onus was on England's Test specialists to come up with the bulk of the runs. And, with the exception of Nasser Hussain, who was unluckily bowled off his thighpad for a second-ball duck, they have so far delivered. Butcher added 93 for the second wicket with Graham Thorpe, whose eye for the gap was as astute as ever, and by the time Freddie Flintoff had walloped 47 from 53 balls, England were in a handy position.
After taking their time to settle, Butcher and Thorpe rattled along at more than four an over. But, just when Thorpe looked to be hitting top gear, he allowed himself to get carried away after smearing two boundaries off Dilhara Fernando, and was caught behind in the same over, as he snicked an attempted pull (96 for 2).
As England's captain, Flintoff announced himself in the only appropriate manner - by hoisting his first ball for a six over square leg - and all but trod on his stumps in the process. He thumped three sixes in all, one of which clanged off the corrugated-iron roof of the green hut at cow corner. But, with tea approaching, Russel Arnold turned to the legspin of Bathiya Perera, and Flintoff clubbed his first ball down the throat of Chamila Gamage at midwicket (189 for 3).
Butcher reached his century in emphatic style, by hoisting Thilan Samaraweera down the ground for a straight six, although England's progress was slowed by two run-outs - Chris Read, who was beaten by a throw from point, and Gareth Batty, who was cruelly sent on his way after Butcher's straight drive had clipped Samaraweera on the way through to the stumps. Before Geraint Jones could make an impact on his representative debut, however, the rains rolled in once again.

Nasser Hussain: unluckily bowled off his thighpad for a second-ball duck
© Getty Images

In the morning session, England had endured a frustrating half-hour in the field, as Perera converted his overnight 29 into an opportunistic half-century. England didn't help their cause by missing two catches in the slip cordon, and they watched a host of edges fly down to the unguarded third-man boundary as the President's XI moved along to 181 in their first innings.
Perera took full advantage with an unbeaten 55, although he ought to have added just five runs to his overnight 29, when Geraint Jones fingertipped a diving chance to his right off James Kirtley. Nandika Ranjith was later dropped at second slip by Thorpe - his second miss of the match.
Flintoff had earlier persuaded Gamage to fend a sharp chance to Batty in the gully, and Batty himself wrapped up the innings with the wicket of Ranjith, courtesy of Jones, who redeemed himself with another smart stumping.