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Butcher recalls Brisbane ton

For any England player who feels their form in the build-up to the Ashes has not reached the required level, Mark Butcher's favourite Brisbane memory will offer some comfort.

The former England batsman enjoyed three centuries against Australia during his career, although he ended up on the losing side in all four series in which he competed for the urn.

It is a different story nowadays, though, as Alastair Cook’s men aim to win a fourth consecutive Ashes rubber for the first time since the 19th century.

But every member of the team will be hoping they can follow Butcher’s lead from the 1998-99 opening Test at the Gabba.

The Surrey batsman scored a magnificent 116 as England recorded a draw against an Australia side featuring the likes of Steve and Mark Waugh, Ian Healy, Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath.

Butcher revealed that the ton was all the more sweet after he had endured a horrid start to the tour and was out of form as he prepared to face the Australia attack.

He told ecb.co.uk: “I suppose the circumstances leading up to the game made it a triumph of sorts. I’d had more stitches in my head than I’d scored runs in the warm-up matches.

“Matt Nicholson, who ended up being a team-mate of mine at The Oval, got one through my grille which opened up my forehead quite nicely and then Peter Such ran into me during a fielding drill so I ended up having two more stitches under my eyelid.”

“In the actual Test match I managed to clear all of that away, but in the lead-up to it I was worried that I probably wasn’t going to get picked.

“It wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if I had not, but (captain) Alec (Stewart) and Bumble (England coach David Lloyd) trusted me to come good when the real games started and that’s how it turned out.”

The importance of players finding their form in the warm-up games Down Under this month has been stressed, but Butcher showed what can be done with a positive attitude.

Walking to the crease to start England’s reply to Australia’s 485 all out, there was only one thing on Butcher’s mind.

He said: “We were on the back foot a little bit when it came to our first innings and I had decided that I was going to go out and be as positive as I could.

“I didn’t have any form behind me, or confidence, so I thought I would try and bluff my way into it by playing a few shots and it worked out okay.

“I remember hitting one straight back past Glenn McGrath for four, which was the first ball I’d middled in about a month a half, and that got me going really.”

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