Buttler was spot on, yet again!
At 198/7 overnight, England would have gladly taken 250 for a first innings score given the rhythm with which Indian bowlers were bowling. Jos Buttler, though, had other ideas. 105 runs came in the first session with Buttler batting positively and inspiring Adil Rashid, and later Stuart Broad, to stay with him. The 98-run stand with Broad turned the match on its head and Buttler was at the helm of it all. He was the last man dismissed for 89 with England’s total soaring to 332.
For those who have missed his fairytale comeback to the Test side, Buttler has been England’s highest run-scorer and by a fairly large margin. With 510 runs in 7 Tests – 199 more than the next England batsman, Joe Root – the wicket-keeper batsman has justified Ed Smith’s nutty as a fruitcake move.
His scores in the Tests since his comeback read : 14, 67, 80*, 0, 1, 24, 39, 106, 21, 69 and 89. Four half-centuries and a hundred have seen him emerge as England’s knight in shining armour at a time their top-order has betrayed them severely at home. It is also quintessential that we check into what he has done based on the game situation.
At Lord’s, on his comeback game, England were tottering at 104/5 (which turned into 110/6 with Root dismissed) when Buttler stitched together a century stand with Dom Bess. He took England to 242, which wasn’t enough win them the game but atleast made Pakistan bat again.
At Leeds, a Test later, he raised the bar again with an unbeaten 80, taking England from 212/5 to 363. The massive lead in the first innings proved to be enough to drown Pakistan by an innings.
In the Trent Bridge Test against India, England were down and out by the time Buttler walked in at 7. At 108/5 in the first innings, England were staring at a huge deficit when Buttler put on his superman avatar and slammed a quickfire 39. He returned in the second essay (with England at 62/4) to threaten India with a massive 169 run association with Ben Stokes. The century was Buttler’s first in Test cricket and salvaged England a few blues although they went on to lose the Test. It also showed a different dimension to Buttler’s game, one which could turn him into a potential Test superstar in the coming years. At Southampton, Buttler was yet again the thorn in India’s flesh, giving England’s lead a firm push with a game-changing 69. At 122/5 when he walked in, England’s lead was well within India’s reach. He had added 111 more by the time he departed and ensured England’s target was out of reach for India.
With all the history, Buttler’s well-composed 89 to take England from hopelessness (198/7) to authority (332) was no bolt from the blue. He rallied together a defiant tail and stood tall against India’s bowling attack which were set lackadaisical fields by Virat Kohli.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say Kohli let Buttler score. A passive approach on the field from the Indian skipper was properly milked by the England batsmen. Broad, for instance, was never bounced with the old cherry on a slow wicket. Buttler was allowed enough width and spread fields to score runs.
With everything aligned in their favour, England flourished and how!
From 198/7 to 332 is a game-changing rise and Buttler was the pioneer of this transformation, smashing 89 en route becoming the highest run-scorer for England in this series. England’s no.8-11 have added 463 runs this series in comparison to India’s 218 and Buttler knew this pretty well when he confidently put Rashid and Broad on strike. The tail complemented his confidence in them and the positivity which was evident in their approach wore India out.
With Bairstow promised a much fulfilling role in the middle-order and Ben Stokes cushioned in at 6, England needed someone to push their talented tail. This was the story at the beginning of the series. By the end, they have two viable, extremely reliable options in Jos Buttler and Sam Curran.
In the Broad – Buttler stand, England’s plans were pretty clear. The dot balls reduced and England’s run-rate soared. This has been the case when Curran has been batting too. They haven’t looked to fight with the tail. Instead, counter-punching from down the order has worked better and Buttler and Curran have spearheaded this move with incredible success.
A tired Bumrah throwing his jumper in anger after Buttler worked him over with a six and a fairly easy single the next ball, shows how effective England’s lower-order mantra is. They haven’t merely raised the bar, they have taken it to zenith heights with logical thinking and smart batting. With white-ball Buttler turning into an all-weather one, England have one less worry in the batting department.