Talking of talented left-handers (see below, or above – I’m not yet quite sure about the order posts appear in in this blogging lark) I was privileged to be at the Oval on Wednesday of this week to witness Mark Butcher’s return to form for Surrey. Although initially shocked to find himself up against the debutant Oliver Hannon-Dalby – when was the last time Yorkshire fielded a bowler who sounds like he’s just slipping in during a break in the grouse-shooting season – he flayed some varied, but also variable, Yorkshire bowling to all parts, at least until the bludgeoning Matthew Nicholson as good as forced him into playing the supporting role in the final session. There was a decent enough crowd in the OCS Stand – the accommodation to which Surrey members are being dispatched until building work behind the pavilion is completed – but I’d guess most of us had been drawn by the prospect of seeing Mark Ramprakash complete his hundredth hundred. I certainly had and, as the Law of Sod would have it, I arrived just after lunch and before even laying eyes on the playing arena, heard some old boy telling a member of the security staff that he’d just got out. Ramps, incidentally, became the first first-class victim of Hannon-Darbly, who, rather than being the eldest son of the eleventh Earl of East Heckmondwike, is actually of more pragmatic stock, hailing from Halifax. But at 6ft 6ins, with arms long enough to convey a family of orphan orangutans back to the wild, he packed enough of a punch to worry the Surrey top-order in the first half of the day. Think Stuart Broad on steroids. And stilts. Then think of the Ashes in 2013. Mmm.
It’s unlikely that Butch will be around for that tour, but if he continues in this vein, he may make the England selectors for Australia 2010 take another Surrey batsman apart from Ramps into their considerations, especially as he is still only 35 and only lost his place most recently because of a spate of unusual injuries. One journalist reporting on the day’s events at the Oval rather unkindly suggested that Butcher’s strokeplay was of “unusual elegance”.
In Yorkshire’s team was another left-hander with, to my mind, a promising future – Adam Lyth. I have seen him bat only once, for England Under-19s against their Indian counterparts – Ishant Sharma and all – a couple of years ago. Then, he dug England out of a tricky position with a battling 64 in the first innings and a fine hundred in the second as England overcame a deficit of almost 200. I thought at the time he reminded me of someone. Oh yes, it was Mark Butcher.