Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Buttler shows off his T20 batting range. Jos Buttler scored 101* off 67 to power England to a winning total against Sri Lanka.
Jos Buttler scored 101* off 67 to power England to a winning total against Sri Lanka.
Lahiru Kumara's first ball of the match was banged into the pitch on a good length, just a fraction outside off-stump. It was the sort of delivery that has proved fiendishly difficult to score off in Sharjah. Jos Buttler, however, stayed leg-side of the ball, opened the angle of his bat and punched it between cover and point for four off the back foot. It was not an extravagant looking shot but the skill to get that delivery away for a boundary was of the very highest class.
At that stage, in just the third over of England's innings, it appeared as if Buttler might simply carry on with the carnage he had unleashed on Australia's bowlers in Dubai. In that innings, he had scored freely from the start and carried on scoring freely throughout, registering his half-century off just his 25th delivery. The initial signs against Sri Lanka were that this innings would follow a similar pattern. That was not, however, the case. Things were different for Buttler in Sharjah.
He had to employ not only his power and his placement but his game awareness and his patience too. He also had to deal with the pressure of trying to get England up to a defendable target in their first outing batting first. This was a far tougher challenge than against Australia and Buttler had to draw on the full range of his abilities to succeed, registering his first T20I hundred in the process. It was no surprise that Eoin Morgan called it one of Buttler's best ever innings after the match.
It took a while to come to a crescendo, though. After that fast start, Buttler then scored nine runs from 21 deliveries between the end of the third over and the start of the 11th. A combination of tricky batting conditions and the loss of early wickets meant Buttler had to bide his time. The Sharjah pitch was slow with very low bounce, making run scoring tricky. Sri Lanka had picked up three wickets inside the Powerplay and their bowlers were proving impossible to get away, giving no width and bowling into the pitch. The spinners, Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, in particular, were superb.
When Morgan joined Buttler at the crease after 5.2 overs, they had a decision to make. Should they try and take the game on by attacking Sri Lanka's bowlers or should they consolidate for a period and try to catch-up later?
Although conventional wisdom may have said that a period of calm was required, it was not a straightforward choice. After all, it has been a theme of this tournament that teams that have batted first have often displayed a costly lack of intent in the middle overs. India, for example, did not score a boundary between overs seven and 16 in their defeat to New Zealand on Sunday (October 31) and paid the price for that timidity. But Buttler and Morgan did consolidate. From the next 4.4 overs, England scored just 12 runs.
It was a gamble, increasing the pressure on Buttler and Morgan to catch-up. There were moments when the frustration appeared to get to England's vie-captain. After a couple of mistimed shots, Buttler had the look of a parent whose kids had just walked mud all over the new cream carpet. But tellingly there was no wild hack, no big shot. Instead, Buttler waited, recognising that his death hitting is one of the strongest parts of his game and also that England didn't need a score of 180 plus on such a pitch. “Experience helps a lot, for remaining calm in those situations,” Buttler told Sky Sports after the game.
Given the slow and low nature of the surface, Buttler also knew that scoring quickly was going to be easier off the quicker bowlers than it was going to be against Sri Lanka's spinners. He knew too that because Theekshana and Hasaranga had bowled during the Powerplay, they would be finished early, leaving the seamers to do the death bowling donkey work. The 11th, 12th and 13th overs encapsulated Buttler's reading of the game perfectly.
The 11th over was bowled by the seamer Kumara. Buttler hit the first ball for a boundary and scored ten of the 12 runs that came from it. Theekshana was next up, bowling his fourth and final over. Buttler played the mystery spinner conservatively, taking just a single off the three balls he faced. The 13th over was bowled by the fast-bowler, Chamika Karunaratne. Buttler heaved the second ball to the midwicket boundary for four and then smashed the next ball for six in the same direction.
Buttler wisely attacked the seamers – the easier battle – and kept his power dry against the spinners. In all, he scored 89 runs from 43 deliveries bowled by Sri Lanka's pacers and just 12 from 24 balls bowled by their spinners.
Of course, it is one thing to recognise what needs to be done. It is quite another to be able to execute the plan. Buttler had decided he was going to try and cash in during the last six overs and cash in he did. Hasaranga and Theekshana were both bowled out. Sri Lanka had not picked a third spinner and so only had pace to turn to. In the 21 balls Buttler faced in those last six overs, he scored 51 runs.
He did so by employing a baseball style stance. Buttler's back foot stepped across towards off stump and his front foot opened up so that he had room to swing his arms and access the ball. Traditionalists will say that Test cricket is a side on game. T20 is certainly not that. In the last six overs, Buttler was front on for most of the deliveries he faced. It is the sort of stance that clearly helps when a batsman is trying to hit the ball to the leg-side where they can drive the back hip through. But Buttler is so good that he was still able to hit the ball over the off-side too.
Kumara was hit for six over extra cover from a ball that pitched wide outside off-stump. Buttler's weight was moving away to the leg-side but that didn't matter. He has such good hands and his wrists and forearms are so powerful that he can still clear the boundary even without his body going into the shot. Four balls later, Buttler hit Kumara over his head for six in a similar manner.
When the seam bowlers went straighter, Buttler's body position allowed him to smash the ball over midwicket or clip the ball off his legs over fine leg as he did for the final ball six that brought him his hundred. Buttler is truly a 360 degree player, particularly now he has developed a ramp shot over third man to add to his well-honed ramp over fine-leg.
He is also now leading the run scoring charts in the Super 12s. It was not so long ago that there was some debate about whether Buttler should open for England in T20I cricket. Such is his ability to finish the innings off, as he showed in this game, and such is the depth England have in the top four that some argued Buttler might be better off in the middle order.
But this tournament has showed why England have never seriously considered moving him from the opening slot. Against Australia, Buttler killed the chase by taking advantage of the early overs. Today against Sri Lanka, he won England the game by knocking the ball around and then going berserk at the death. It is not hard to see why Morgan wants him to face as many balls as possible.
After all, when you have a player that can do it all, it's best to simply give them their head.