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Butcher hits 137

London: Mark Butcher hit a second successive century to put England in a commanding position in the first Test against labouring Zimbabwe on Friday.

Butcher, given two let-offs on the first day, unfurled a string of stylish off-side strokes against some wayward bowling to make 137 out of Englandís 472 at Lordís.

Zimbabwe, in reply, closed the second day on 48 for one, James Anderson bowling Mark Vermeulen with a sharp inswinger to claim his first Test wicket with his 20th delivery.

The left-handed Butcher, who hit 90 in boundaries, dominated as the batting conditions improved along with the weather before falling to a fine catch at short mid-wicket after a six-and-a-half-hour stay.

It was Butcherís seventh Test hundred and the best score by an Englishman against Zimbabwe.

Butcher, who made a century in the final Ashes Test at the turn of the year, said: ďHopefully scoring a Test century is a habit Iíll keep for a while.Ē

England skipper Nasser Hussain, though, was as delighted with the middle and lower orderís adhesiveness.

Butcher shared a fifth-wicket stand of 70 with Alec Stewart, then put on 68 for the sixth with debutant Anthony McGrath, who contributed a solid 69. The seventh-wicket pair added 66 and Ashley Giles belted a Test-best 52 before being the last man out.

The touring side, meanwhile, lost their radar again.

On Thursday, when only 59 overs were possible, they had failed to bowl the right line in helpful swinging conditions.

On Friday they lost their length and failed to take wickets in clusters. They also leaked an extraordinary 61 extras.

Only skipper Heath Streak, with three for 99, looked like belonging to a true Test attack.

It was Butcherís day, however.

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