England v New Zealand, Champions Trophy 2017, Cardiff June 6, 2017

Buttler puts in a middle-order masterclass

Jos Buttler adjusted quickly and smartly to save England's innings from falling away

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Star turn

It was a match of brittle middle orders. England and New Zealand are both known to stock up on allrounders in the lower-middle order, but neither got performances out of theirs today. Yet, England got 122 for the last six wickets, against New Zealand's 55. The difference is almost entirely made up of Jos Buttler's unbeaten 61.

Jonny Bairstow enjoys a lot of support from the public who think of him as a deserving English No. 6; but Buttler's knock on Tuesday provided a bit of context as to why the management isn't keen on pushing him up to open to make space for Bairstow.

Buttler's arrival was instigated by a loose shot from Joe Root, and he only had Ben Stokes' company for four overs. Soon, he was the last frontline batsman remaining. He played within himself, running 41 out of the 61 he got, without letting his strike rate dip at any point. A well-paced innings is generally associated with top-order batsmen, but Buttler's impressive strike rate through a conservative innings stretched that notion. His knock allowed the hard-hitters around him to play their shots and helped carry England into the final over.

The contrast was strong when New Zealand went about their chase. Their effort to take the innings as deep as possible was embedded with struggle. Four middle-order players finished with strike rates under 70. Buttler even played a hand with the gloves, going blind to collect a wide down leg side to stump Mitchell Santner.

The wow moment

Trent Boult had bowled three dot balls to Buttler in the 46th over, a mix of two full balls and a short one. With runs on the agenda, Buttler had to figure this one out. He decided to throw in a change-up of his own by walking across his stumps, getting under Boult's back of a length delivery and clearing the wicketkeeper, a cameraman, and the roof with a ramp.

Stats that matter

  • Buttler's two fours and two sixes were the lowest returns for him in an innings of fifty-plus in ODIs
  • Of his 18 fifty-plus scores, 16 of them have come at a strike rate of above 100

What they said

"This is why England is such a good batting side. Someone in the top six will stay in to finish the innings."
Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, on Twitter

"That is an outstanding stumping by @josbuttler! Made it look so easy...and I assure you it wasn't!"
Former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior, on Twitter

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • waq_ash on June 9, 2017, 4:01 GMT

    @NAIR_OTTAPPALAM: i agree 100%, Roy needs to go out and JB need to come back in to the team. They can either open with JB like he did for yorkshire and scored 175 or even better go for Ali on top , it provides a left right combo uses alis skills as he is wasted down the order

  • nair_ottappalam on June 7, 2017, 4:53 GMT

    Jos played one of the most matured ODI innings' of modern times taking into consideration the attacking nature of his batting. He played with a cool, level headed mind to ensure that his bowlers had something to bowl at against a very strong kiwi batting line up. Mind you, Guptill has a ODI double hundred to his credit, Ronchi is a dangerous batsman and so is Taylor. With captain Kane Williamson in the same bracket as Kohli, Smith and Root as the best talents in the world at present and followed by Anderson and Neesham, they are a strong batting side. Yet Buttler proved why he is selected above Jonny Bairstow. His glove work was also excellent yesterday, the stumping of Santner being outstanding. Its harsh that Bairstow is not in the playing XI. I think England could experiment with Moeen and Hales at the top (drop out of form Roy) and bring JB in the middle order to make batting bit more strong in the absence of Woakes in the lower middle order. Rashid also bowled well yesterday.

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