Is time up for Mark Butcher?
His two Test Matches against South Africa produced one decent score (in the First Test) from 4 innings. His most notable other innings was his 13 from 70 balls. The pressure must have been on, you'd think to be forced down to a strike rate of only 24. Well, er no. England were on a roll after Strauss and Trescothick had put on 272 for the first wicket. Admittedly his innings lasted overnight, but if digging in was required, see Thorpe in that innings, who also scored a century.
In short, his form wasn't very impressive before he was injured, much like last summer.
Robert Key, whilst not the most proficient of batsmen, is producing the goods. Admittedly he had a duck in the last test, but then made a gritty 41 when England were on the rack in Cape Town, and is, as I write, approaching a century in J'burg.
Is there a way back for Butcher? There are many pros and cons. Key would be considered very unlucky to be dropped again come summer, for a potentially misfiring Butcher. But, generally speaking, many would say that Butcher is naturally a better batsman. one also need to remember that whilst Key is vulnerable to the short ball, Butcher appears vulnerable to injuries. It seems to me that Butcher is becomming increasingly reliant on that innings against Australia a few years ago to maintain his fragile reputation.
Even if Key fails to impress, who's in South Africa to take his spot? Ian Bell, who has been on the fringes of the side for about a year now. He even bowls a bit (Which Butcher used to do). He's surely going to be fancied for the Bangladesh series that preceeds the Ashes, and if he does well there…
Much as I like him, I don't think there will be many games left for Mark Butcher. When and if he gets back into the England side, he will have to cement his place immediately, otherwise he'll have to go back to Surrey and be outplayed by Mark Ramprakash…