England middle-order battle heats up
Jos Buttler couldn't help Somerset end their run of second-place finishes in county cricket, but gave another demonstration of his talent against Surrey at Lord's. The day after Jonny Bairstow burst onto the international stage with a matchwinning innings against India, Buttler gave his own eye-catching demonstration with 86 off 72 balls in the CB40 final.
There is an increasing battle for places in the England limited-overs teams after Bairstow and Ravi Bopara took the opportunities presented by the absences of Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan. Those two senior players will also miss the Twenty20s against West Indies this week - while Morgan is ruled out of the India tour next month - which means an opportunity to impress before the squads for India are announced.
Bairstow's unbeaten 41 off 21 balls at Cardiff has assured him of a trip to the subcontinent, but Buttler, who was called into the one-day squad as cover for the final match, is perhaps battling Ben Stokes, the Durham allrounder, for a place in the touring party. Stokes played the first four matches against India, although he only batted twice and struggled against spin.
He is also still unable to bowl due to the broken finger he suffered earlier in the season, so Buttler's performance at Lord's came at a good moment and his county captain, Marcus Trescothick, believes he showed his rapid development.
"He can play some great innings just like that," Trescothick said. "It was quite reserved for Jos. We've all seen it when he bangs it left, right and centre out of the ground. It was very mature. It was the perfect knock for the situation of the game.
"It was great to watch. We've seen enough great times of Jos over the last couple of years to justify him being in the international team," he added. "If he can continue to play like that and get the opportunity to play in international games, England supporters are going to see some good performances because he is a serious player."
Buttler's place in the Twenty20 squad to face West Indies means he didn't travel with Somerset to the Champions League on Sunday although could link up with the squad if they progress through the qualifying stage in Hyderabad. The odds are stacked against them, however, as they have two games in two days with the first less than 24 hours after arriving in India. Yet if he doesn't reach India with his county, Buttler is making a strong case to go there with his country.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo