Memorable Ashes Moments: Butcher´s brilliant Headingley 173

14 November 2017 17:55

As Australia and England prepare to battle it out once again for possession of the Ashes urn, we look back at the top moments from the last 10 series.

We continue our trip down memory lane with a glimpse at the 2001 series, which saw Australia maintain their iron grip on the urn but fall victim to a batting masterclass in Leeds.


Monday August 20, 2001: Fourth Test, Headingley 

A year prior to the fourth Test of the 2001 Ashes, Mark Butcher's England career looked to be racing towards its conclusion.

Having been dropped from the side in the wake of England's defeat to South Africa in 1999-2000, Butcher was reduced to playing in the Surrey second XI.

England won four and drew one of the next five series without Butcher in the XI and, though he made his return for the Ashes, he appeared poised to be discarded once more for the Headingley Test. 

Australia had cantered to dominant victories in the first three Tests to once again retain the urn and Butcher had angered the selectors and captain Nasser Hussain by staying out late during the third Test at Trent Bridge.

Hussain and the selectors had agreed to drop Butcher but, on the guidance of head coach Duncan Fletcher, a call to Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart led to a change of heart, with Hussain now deeming his omission overly harsh, and one that would be gloriously vindicated by a performance Adam Gilchrist - stand-in captain for the injured Steve Waugh - described as one of the great Ashes innings.

The tourists had commanded proceedings in Leeds and set England - whose score of 309 in the first innings was their highest of the series to that point - an unlikely target of 315 after declaring on 176-4.

Indeed, those who packed into Headingley could have been forgiven for fearing another hammering when England, having resumed day five on 4-0, lost Michael Atherton and Marcus Trescothick cheaply.

But a sense of impending despair quickly turned into intrigue as Butcher, aided by Hussain, set about not only stymieing Australia's star-studded attack, but punishing it into submission.

Excelling on the drive, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee were all frustrated by Butcher, as was Shane Warne, who was punched through the leg side for the left-hander's half-century and again for his hundred.

Equally emphatic in dealing with anything with width on the off-side and aimed at his pads, Australia had no answer for Butcher, with Gilchrist's plan to put seven fielders on the off-side and have his bowlers pitch the ball outside off proving utterly ineffective.

A stunning square drive brought up his 150 and an identical stroke off Warne delivered the winning runs and saw Butcher finish on a career-best unbeaten 173 as a rapturous Headingley crowd acclaimed one of the finest individual batting performances the ground has witnessed.

"We have made some bad decisions in selection over the years, but I'm delighted we got this one right," Hussain later wrote in his autobiography.

And in making the correct call, Hussain facilitated a display that proved England could have success against Australia's fearsome attack. Four years later, they would decisively do so again.

Latest news

20 March 2019


19 March 2019


18 March 2019