BUTCHER BACK WITH A BANG

There is some good news for England. Mark Butcher is back among the headlines with a century for Surrey against Glamorgan. Butcher is out of cricket for more than a year with injuries. Plenty of good critics say Butcher is BATTING BETTER than at any time for several years and he is still only 33, writes TED CORBETT.

June 19: Truly we say that after the Lord Mayor's Show comes the dust cart. This is the week that injury-hit, much-defeated, ill-led England face reality. Now players, medical staff, coaches and selectors know that Michael Vaughan, Ashley Giles and Simon Jones are not coming back in a hurry, that defeat stares them in the face in the Champions Trophy and the World Cup because their one-day team is so poor and that the surrender of the Ashes is probably inevitable.

June 20: I do not understand why, in days when there is a mass of new technology, when two television companies follow every ball and there are scorers in every part of the ground mistakes occur. In the first one-day game there is a "one-short" signal from an umpire which everyone except the official scorers miss and then at the Oval the official scorers fail to see two leg bye signals which means all the scoreboards sent to newspapers, radio, television and, eventually, to Wisden, will not record what happened.

Surely, the rule that the official scorers are always right is outdated. I reckon ICC ought to insist that when there is a dispute television replays must be consulted.

June 21: There is some good news for England. Mark Butcher is back among the headlines with a century for Surrey against Glamorgan. Butcher is out of cricket for more than a year with injuries. Plenty of good critics say Butcher is batting better than at any time for several years and, as he is still only 33, I wonder if Vaughan cannot go to Australia and Andrew Flintoff does not want the burden of leadership while the main all-rounder and Andrew Strauss is not rated as a captain the selectors may turn to this resilient batsman to lead the side.

The thought becomes stronger as England lose the second match in a row to Sri Lanka and Strauss, trying to be positive and certainly without any evidence to support him, says there is no reason why England cannot win three in succession to take the series.

Later in the week, it is my privilege to be the audience to a conversation between a strongly opinionated television commentator and the England doctor, from whom one can wait an eternity for a monosyllable. A great deal of hard questioning elicits the information that Vaughan is in serious trouble. I wish I can give you a word-for-word replay but some of it is very strong meat and I know several cricketers with delicate natures read this column.

June 22: I open my copy of the Daily Telegraph — the one remaining broadsheet newspaper for the higher levels of British society where size is important — and see in the Court and Social page that a lady by the name of Jessica Hogg leaves �15m when she dies. In the Court Circular are the details of the Queen's trip to Royal Ascot — coach and horses, footmen in uniform, plenty of bowing and scrapping — and how Brigadier Peter Williams represents the Duke of Edinburgh at the funeral of Lieutenant David Wood, once "Temporary Equerry to his Royal Highness". Naturally, the Duke, now 85, is too tied up, first at a service of thanks giving for the Queen's official 80th birthday — her ordinary birthday is in April when it is too cold for ceremony — and watching the racing at Ascot, to go to a Temporary Equerry's funeral 30 miles away.

There is a report of a society wedding, a note about a Royal Army Service Corps dinner — that is my old regiment but I guess my invitation is lost in the post yet again — and a list of more than 50 of the great and good now inhabiting the great pavilion in the sky.

Under Today's Birthdays, Prince William of Wales gets a separate paragraph to himself to announce that he is 24 while the Test cricketers John Edrich and Jeremy Coney, Kate Hoey, former minister of sport and Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, are all lumped together with a cartoonist, Margaret Thatcher's press secretary and a couple of MPs. So you can see that this is a place where the rich and royal and famous mark their progress through life.

You have to consider yourself quite someone to announce your nuptials here so it is only right that Mr. Kevin Pietersen, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jannie Pietersen of Durban, should announce his engagement to Jessica, daughter of Mr. Josh Taylor of Crewkerne, Somerset and Mrs. Linda Taylor of Preston, Lancashire. (Feel free to read whatever you please into their different addresses). Ms Taylor is a singer with the girls' band Liberty X and in another magazine recently she reveals her most intimate thoughts about KP. She says she likes confident men and believe me — if not just watch him strutting around the crease — this is one confident man.

The happy pair is in yet another publication smiling as though they are cats who recently discover spilt cream but, oddly, clutching cricket bats and a tennis ball. Ms Taylor, gains a place in Mr. Pietersen's affections soon after he parts with the television presenter Natalie Pinkham and then the celebrity model Caprice.

They also give every detail of the way they became engaged, after a flight by helicopter to a romantic castle. At dinner KP goes down on one knee — he may be practising for the day he gets a knighthood — and Jessica is so happy she says "Yes, yes, yes." No, romance is not dead. Yet.

June 23: So how does "Freddie" Flintoff pass his time while he is resting his damaged ankle? Being a lad with a few spare shillings and a lot of friends in the right places he heads off to the big sporting events of the summer.

First, there's a trip to see the World Cup in Germany where he gives a high-spirited interview which does not quite hit the spot. Later in the week he rings a TV producer and offers another interview. Where from? The Royal meeting at Ascot. I do hope nothing happens to spoil the Queen's official birthday.

June 24: On the road, right down to the Falkland Islands where lies one of the most southerly cricket pitches in the world. The one in use for an annual series of matches between British troops and the locals is 35 miles from the capital Stanley. It is along these roads that 20 years ago British paratroopers "yomp" — walk with heavy kit and armaments — in their battle to recapture the Islands. Twenty years on drivers must beware of hard clay tracks which are treacherous in the wet and windy weather and in the midst of minefields. And it's cold.

Neil Smith, the Worcestershire scorer, travels to the Falklands this winter to do his day job, and wears five layers of clothing to umpire one match. He says: "The wind is so strong we cannot use bails and bowling into the breeze is a nightmare."

June 25: Ashley Giles, another of the walking wounded, joins a group of ballet dancers, hoping for a cure to his hip and groin problems. Nice treatment, Ashley, almost worth getting injured, right?