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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 January, 2005, 16:47 GMT
Butcher hopeful of England return
Mark Butcher
A wrist brace should ensure Butcher's fitness for the fourth Test
England batsman Mark Butcher admits he may not feature in the fourth Test with South Africa starting on Thursday, even if he recovers from a wrist injury.

Butcher was chosen ahead of Robert Key for the first two Tests, but after an opening 79 made only 18 runs from three innings before injury allowed Key in.

"I might get to nets on Monday and not be able to bat properly, in which case there is no decision to make," he said.

"Obviously I am hoping it is a choice between one of us again."

The 32-year-old left-hander was delighted to be picked for the first Test, despite looking woefully out of form in the one tour match beforehand.

"I travelled out here not knowing whether I was going to be in the starting line-up," he said.

"Then to get that vote of confidence before the first Test match was a huge boost, and I was determined not to let anybody down for putting me there."

Butcher was keen to stress that there was no rivalry between himself and Key, even though the main competition for a batting place has continually centred around the two of them.

We just can't afford to slip up again
Mark Butcher

"My friends were texting in hoping he would get out for none and stuff like that!" Butcher revealed.

"But I like him, he's a good lad. I think he's a good player, and when we lose Test matches or things don't go well it comes down on all of us.

"That's the way it is with teams, sometimes you have to accept your misfortune is going to benefit other people, and you cannot begrudge anybody that.

"I hope he scores runs as much as I hope any of the other batters score runs."

England physios have fitted Butcher with a special brace for his wrist, which he first damaged during a fitness session in the early part of the tour.

It is hoped the swelling has stopped and he will be able to take a full part in three days practice ahead of the Johannesburg Test.

Robert Key
Key's soft dismissals in Cape Town might allow Butcher back in

Butcher admitted that whoever plays for England would need to be at their best against a resurgent South African side, who levelled the five-match series with an emphatic 196-run victory in Cape Town.

"They are starting to put their side together in the way it probably should have been from the start," he said.

"They have guys in their team who average 60 with the bat, and Shaun Pollock averages 22 with the ball so it was never going to be easy.

"If we play to the potential we have shown, with all things firing as we would like, we are a better side than they are, but they are at home, they are a decent team and they played well in this last Test.

"We just can't afford to slip up again."

The selectors are likely to opt for Butcher's experience if he is fit.

He played in 42 consecutive Tests after being recalled in 2001, but his progress has been blighted since a spate of bizarre injuries kept him out of the second half of last summer's Test campaign.

After a duck in the first innings in Cape Town, Key made 41 in the second, but was out to injudicious shots both times, which may count in Butcher's favour.

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