Sri Lanka in England 2014 June 1, 2014

'Fun' Buttler can enlighten England


English cricket has been short on uplifting experiences of late. Jos Buttler provided one at Lord's on Saturday.

In the last three months there have been two innings by England batsmen in white-ball cricket that have set a new standard: Alex Hales' 116 off 64 balls in the World T20 and now Buttler against Sri Lanka when he thrashed 121 off 74 balls, England's fastest ODI hundred, albeit in defeat.

Speaking immediately afterwards to TV, Buttler said the innings - and his 133-run stand with Ravi Bopara - had started as "fun" with the target so distant. Crucially, though, the fun - or freedom - never goes out of Buttler's batting. When the chase became realistic he did not freeze or start to overthink. It took the equal skill of Lasith Malinga to stop him.

"I think we were so far behind that nobody gave us a chance which took the pressure off us," Buttler said. "It gave us the chance to play with a lot of freedom and once we got on a roll we thought we were getting in a good position here and with ten overs to go we thought we were in the box seat. If Ravi and me had been there at the end we would have won the game but someone like Malinga coming back at the end it was always going to be really tough."

Both Hales and Buttler have central roles to play in the rebuilding of English cricket, but both are being held back from progressing to their respective "next level". There has been a reluctance to elevate Hales to the one-day side - he only made the current squad as injury cover for Alastair Cook - and now it has been confirmed that Buttler will not be a contender for the wicketkeeper's spot in the Lord's Test against Sri Lanka if Matt Prior is unavailable.

Overlooking Hales for the one-day side is actually more baffling than the caution shown over Buttler, although both players have recently shown the ability to do things that few England cricketers possess.

It is widely accepted that Buttler's keeping is raw - not least by the player himself - and that is as important to his future as a Test cricketer as his batting, although in the last decade England have not always put the importance of glovework on a par with the batting element of their keeper.

Buttler has made errors behind the stumps this season for England. He dropped a simple catch against Scotland and missed a tougher leg-side stumping in the Durham ODI against Sri Lanka.

His first-class batting average remains modest too, at 32.61, but this season for Lancashire he tops their averages having made 252 runs at 42.00. He is missing a century but his runs have often come after the poor Lancashire top-order has been removed for 100 or fewer.

However, echoing what Cook said after the Lord's match, although insisting conversations have not been had, Buttler was eager to dampen expectations.

"It is a pretty easy assumption to make looking at my game and where I am as a player. I am not ready for Test match cricket," he said. "It is my hope and ambition to turn into something who is talked about as a Test cricketer as quickly as I can.

"Test match cricket is completely different format. I average 32 in first-class cricket and if I wasn't playing one-day cricket I would not be at the forefront of anyone's mind. My glovework needs to improve too to be a Test match cricketer. I am 23. I have plenty of time to work on those things.

"I am getting better. This is probably the best start I have had to a first-class season. I am starting to learn my method in four-day cricket. I made the change to Lancashire to improve my wicketkeeping and do it full time. You have to remember it takes time. You want to accelerate your development but you want to be realistic as well."

If the player does not feel he is ready it is a non-starter to select him, but Buttler is a modest person. He is also the type of cricketer to reignite the debate of when outstanding natural ability should, perhaps, over-ride the need for a lengthy audition at domestic level. It is worthy to give Buttler his time at first-class level, but he will not need long.

And not that selectors should select on what the public want to see, but Buttler injects some much needed joy, exuberance and expression to English cricket.

"Certain guys are earmarked to play Test cricket and based on someone's opinion they think they can do it," Buttler said. "It would be great if that was the case for me but in the meantime all I can do is keep improving. I have so many areas to improve at a fast rate and it is down to me to do that."

There is little doubt that he will make it. Those at Lord's on Saturday who wonder why it is not sooner rather than later will just need a little patience. It will be worth it.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Grant on June 3, 2014, 15:09 GMT

    @luke Hansford, onions too has been injured given you point on Stokes surely this applies to Onions too? My issue with Tredwell is 17 wickets at 56 in 2013 and so far this year 6 wickets at 45 in the CC. That's just not good enough for selection. There is a youngster at Kent Riley who looks good and has taken 17 wickets so far this term. My gut feel is they will for for Panasar as a specialist spinner or leave the spinning to Root and Ali or Patel.

  • G on June 3, 2014, 11:59 GMT

    I think Buttler is good enough as a batsman to be in the ODI side, but that's a bit too adventurous for the England selectors

  • John on June 3, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    @Cod+Chips - I told you that we weren't being granted any favours by Overton playing that game and it wouldn't surprise me if England asked Somerset to select him. I'm not from Somerset BTW - from Plymouth - but from Somerset's POV there seems to be a healthy competition for bowling/all rounder places from Meschede and the 3 Devonians. Interestingly Craig was the one who played for the U19s but Jamie was the one who came on strong last season. Craig maybe the preferred choice right now. It'll be interesting to see if either/both make it and if there's a chance they could both play in the same Eng side down the line? There have been no twins play for Eng in my lifetime and I'm not sure brothers have played in the same Eng side - maybe the Hollioakes did?

  • Paulo on June 2, 2014, 17:47 GMT

    @JG2704 So you're a Read fan? I prefer Foster, and although I'd ignore his batting, he batted abysmally at Hants the other night, and offered our fielders so many chances. My initial choice was Davies as he could both keep and bat, but for some strange reason he thinks it's beneficial to give up the gloves!?!

    Re Overton if I remember rightly he went at nearly 10 an over in that game so wasn't much help. I looked at his stats and his brother Craig has much better ones. What's the feeling down at Somerset? And who in your eyes if you've seen them play looks more convincing?

  • Bob on June 2, 2014, 17:30 GMT

    If England are going the Aussie route of selecting a specialist wicketkeeper rather than a batsman who can keep wicket... then really there is no choice...Prior should be out and one of Foster, who is probably the best pure keeper in the world today...or Read..who runs him a pretty close second should be in... but maybe either of those two might be seen as a step backwards rather than looking into the future.

  • John on June 2, 2014, 16:26 GMT

    @CodandChips - how the times have changed. Buttler/ Pollard totally saved our skin vs Notts in a T20QF a few years ago.We have all rounders who can hit a ball like Mechede/Gregory but the latter seems to get injured as soon as he hits form. Eng should not play any white ball cricket near semi finals of trophies and that SF last year also hurt us as Notts had Broad and Swann released - after being RESTED??? for the England SF series. Re Overton - his white ball stats aren't good and I even wonder if Eng actually told Somerset to play him. It was certainly nothing to be thankful for that he was released to play a format where he struggles. Can't comment too much on the Hants players who were omitted although DM said a few home truths which didn't sit well with the selectors. Re Buttler as a test WK - I'd say no but I'm not hugely convinced by anyone.Read has had a few useful knocks this season so I wonder if they'd go against the grain re choosing/recalling an older player

  • Paulo on June 2, 2014, 13:55 GMT

    @JG2704 (continued) Perhaps there should be a rule whereby you cannot feature in the semis/final unless you've played a certain amount of games for the county (either accross the whole season or in that competition), with exceptions made for teams who have suffered injuries. But it'd create a grey area.

    Saw the Viv impression. The background lafter says it all. I doubt Carberry will be in the England set-up much longer.

    Re Buttler his departure seems to have left Somerset's white ball batting lacking a finish. I remember at finals day at the Ageas Bowl in 2010 when Pollard and Buttler smashed it everywhere. Now you have to make do with Nick Compton as your finisher (I think he batted 6 during a match).

    What's your opinion as Buttler as a test prospect? And who would you chose as a keeper in this test series?

  • Paulo on June 2, 2014, 13:48 GMT

    @JG2704 yeah we lost Carberry for the semi-final in which we lost to Glamorgan. Unfortunately we had to make do with Michael Roberts. But I doubt Carberry would have done much better against the Mascarenhas-like spell with the new ball. The thing that annoyed me was that you guys still had Overton released, and Notts got Swann and Broad for the final. Oh well, Glamorgan played well and Adams, Wood and Briggs all struggled. I'm not really upset about England not releasing Carberry. Especially considering we've been pretty lucky with England not selecting our players who clearly deserved a go, such as Adams (2009-2011 he was the best white-ball opnener in the country), Mascarenhas, Carberry before the end of last summer, and Briggs got dropped without playing many matches.

    I think England shouldn't play matches near the semis, but I don't really want to see somebody who hasn't played much, if at all for their county, play just the final. (continued)

  • Dru on June 2, 2014, 12:51 GMT

    Eng should start to look at Butler as a pure batsman in all forms of cricket rather than the "test wicket keeper". He has some rare talent with the bat which is being wasted in limited over cricket ONLY because he is not the test keeper. Their opponents SL constantly play more than one wicket keeper in all forms - SL could have 4 keepers in the playing eleven for the first test! Butler shouldnt be categorized as wicket keeper batsman if his keeping is not good, give him a chance at what he is good at, as opposed to try to make him better at somethng he may not be good at.

  • Bob on June 2, 2014, 12:28 GMT

    England are currently third in the ICC test table below Oz and Sth Africa... Now the only way we're going to get back above those teams is by being better than them... With the tried and tested crew of Cook - Prior - Bell - Root - Morgan - Bresnan - Anderson - Broad .. that just isn't going to happen 1) because those players as a bunch are proven to simply be not good enough and 2) because some of them are getting close to their sell-by dates.. If the ECB haven't learned from the lesson of what happened to Australia when they hung on to players too long and then suffered when a whole clutch of them retired at once, then they ought not to be in the job. Therefore, we need to be blooding new players now..We need a scout with the same nous as Duncan Fletcher who could suss out test talent irrespective of county form.. and we need him now.. If we plod on as we are doing. then we're destined to be mediocre for a long long time to come...

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