“As he raised his bat and soaked in the applause post his maiden Test hundred there was a sense of belonging”
Life – Buttler on 1
Jasprit Bumrah tests Jos Buttler’s defensive skills with a good length ball from wide of the stumps, angled in and straightening off the surface. A circumspect Buttler hangs his bat out to dry, pokes at the ball and the edge flies to Rishabh Pant, who is wrong-footed. The dive goes in vain as Buttler gets an early life.
Near miss – Buttler on 15
A half-volley in any form of cricket is there to be put away and Buttler drives at this Shami delivery but fails to keep it down. Ajinkya Rahane at cover dives full stretch but really can’t get a fingertip to the ball. A brilliant effort but an inch or two this side and Rahane would have sent Buttler on his way.
Error in field placement – Buttler on 35
Bumrah continues to probe Buttler’s defense with full balls straightening outside his off-stump. After two edges that fell short of first slip off Bumrah, Buttler drives at this length ball and once again edges it, this time wider. It shoots through a vacant gully area, strangely left unmanned by Virat Kohli.
Error in field placement – Buttler on 51
It’s Bumrah again and another loose drive outside the off-stump. The ball catches the edge for the umpteenth time but much to Bumrah’s misery the edge scurries away past second slip. Again, Kohli’s hesitancy to have a third slip worked in Buttler’s favour.
Near miss – Buttler on 106
Bumrah’s never-ending battle with Buttler reaches the zenith as the England batsman punches a length ball in the air. The ball shoots up to mid-off but dies down well before it reaches the fielder.
Robust cut shots, bludgeoning pulls, elegant drives, a few edges, a few more and a half-hearted leave. Jos Buttler’s maiden Test hundred was quite the Shakespearean drama on stage. Struggling against Jasprit Bumrah’s angle right through the innings, Buttler managed to overcome the sore thumb that the Indian seamer was and raise his bat to an elated Trent Bridge crowd.
Even with England staring at a heavy defeat, one can’t help but admire Buttler’s melodramatic Test hundred. A flashy, modern-day batsman with a fearless approach to batting, Buttler could easily be mistaken for a baseball player given the license to go for a home run every single ball.
A wide stance, poker face and impeccable balance greet you as Buttler takes guard to face the bowling. On his best days, the stance has evoked comparisons to AB de Villiers, not least owing to his prowess to play shots behind the stumps. His controversial return to the Test fold despite not playing county cricket for a long time had evoked strong responses from critics.
Ed Smith, England’s selector, had vivid views on giving Buttler a Test return. At the time, he said Buttler was back in the fold for his “unique gifts” and because he was a “whole package”. That this package included leadership qualities were emphasized by Smith then but few gave it a thought until Buttler was appointed vice-captain of the Test side for the Indian series.
Though Buttler had made his presence felt in the first Test since his return – against Pakistan – he needed a colossal knock, one that would put ropes around critics’ crocodile mouths. That was Trent Bridge. It was perhaps a self-assurance that he had it in him to cut it at this level. With Buttler, though, making it big was just a matter of time, a when rather than an if.
“Jos playing his way has the potential to be a real positive force in Test cricket. Knowing what he can do and the skill he has, the decision making ability he has, the batting ability he has all round, not just power, but touch and finesse, I think him playing as he can play in Test cricket is something we are very excited by,” Ed Smith had said on Buttler’s recall.
Two qualities Buttler supposedly has stood out in his words – “positive force” and “decision-making ability”.
The two were at the forefront on day four at Trent Bridge even as India dominated the game and kept pushing England further over the precipice. Buttler wasn’t one to be bogged down by the situation. Ben Stokes, the more illustrious partner and pretty widely known for his aggression, ambled along to his slowest Test half-century. Buttler at the other end remained positive, played with intent and made sure 62/4 wasn’t turning into a 100 all-out in no time.
This Indian team, unlike the previous ones, have the ability to stampede over the opposition when on top. Buttler isn’t one to allow that. Fighting fire with fire, Buttler was quick to transfer the pressure back on to the Indians. There were edges, plenty of them, but few fell short and the rest hurried past vacant areas in the field.
As he raised his bat and soaked in the applause post his maiden Test hundred there was a sense of belonging. That Buttler took 24 balls for the next three runs after his hundred is a testimony to his patience and game awareness. He is the brash, exciting, raw talent that everyone makes him out to be, a “positive force” if you wish to quote Smith. Maturity-wise, though, he isn’t far behind. Red ball cricket can expect more of Buttler’s thrills and spills in the next few years.