“He had 158 defensive shots by the end of Day 3, which is much higher than the overall average of 73. He did not shy away from smashing fours as well; driving through the covers at will or standing outside the crease to give glimpses of the Buttler that one had witnessed just a few days back in India”.
Going against the temporary director of the England team Andy Flower’s views that the Indian Premier League form should not be considered for Test selection, new chief selector Ed Smith, in a bold move, did not hesitate to pick Jos Buttler in the two-Test series against Pakistan. Calling him a player with “unique gifts”, Smith refused to get drawn by the fact that Buttler had played only four first-class matches in the last 17 months, in which he averaged only 17. Rather, to him, his clean hitting and his sheer power of shots was something that the English team, on the back of a disastrous away season, badly needed.
For someone who till February had revealed that he would not regret if he did not play any more Tests for his country, Buttler’s selection was as much of a shock to the cricketer himself as it was to the English cricketing arena. Although his average of 31.38 in his first 18 Tests was criticised, to date, only Haseeb Hameed has averaged more in the said interim. Hence, his selection was based on a deep trust that even the players who are slowly moving towards white-ball cricket can convert their form in the longest format, and with Buttler having averaged 54.80 with five consecutive IPL 50s, it was hoped that the dangerous hitter would prove the traditionalists wrong.
However, as he barely survived a clean-bowled from an inside edge in the first ball of the first innings, talks again swivelled over the gamble that Smith and Co. had taken in selecting him. All that changed when England were struggling at 110 for 6 on Day 3 of the Lord’s game, struggling to avoid an innings defeat against a team that had a team full of fiery swing bowlers. His well-constructed knock of 67 was a result of patience and raw talent that no amount of games in the County Championship could have prepared him for. Along with debutant Dominic Bess, Buttler adopted the role of a senior pro to perfection, playing a sensible innings that threatened to put Pakistan on the backfoot, albeit a short while.
He had 158 defensive shots by the end of Day 3, which is much higher than the overall average of 73. He did not shy away from smashing fours as well; driving through the covers at will or standing outside the crease to give glimpses of the Buttler that one had witnessed just a few days back in India. Pakistan succumbed here as well, bowling in the corridor outside the off stump regularly even though it is a well-known fact that he struggles against the straighter balls.
Even though his Rajasthan Royals coach Shane Warne had advised Buttler to be true to himself, what struck out in his innings was the way he defended throughout his innings. His batting was technical, sound and methodical – and the fact that he only had a single first-class fifty in the last three years seemed unreal.
He left almost 21% of the balls he faced, which is the most in the last 10 matches. Even in his calm approach, he attacked 31% of the shots, with only 9% false shots. However, more than anything that stood out was the manner in which he foregoes his exhilarating style of play in a more relaxed manner for the benefit of his team.
Flower might have been a sceptic of merging the two formats of the game together, but in Buttler’s adaptability, one saw how, if the intent is real, the progress towards success remains an easier path.