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For players in the middle order of a Twenty20 side there is precious little time to get settled, but for Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler that does not appear to be a problem
September 22, 2012
Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler faced only 12 balls between them against Afghanistan and, in the aftermath of a comprehensive victory, they barely warranted a mention, but England's Twenty20 captain, Stuart Broad, was clearly excited that his two young batsmen had done all that was asked of them ahead of Saturday's Group A tie against India.
Broad's tale of Bairstow's arrival at the crease against Afghanistan with only 10 balls remaining, encapsulated the brazen approach of two unproven players who England hope will maintain the upbeat mood throughout the tournament.
Luke Wright, who finished unbeaten on 99, rightly took the plaudits, but Buttler and Bairstow somehow found time to make an impact as England added 55 in the last three overs.
"Jonny's first ball yesterday, I was speaking to Wrighty about it last night," Broad said. "Jonny said, 'What's it doing?' Wrighty said, `It looks like he's going for yorkers but he's not quite got it right.' Jonny said, 'OK, I'll have a look.' First ball he hits him out of the ground, walks up to Wrighty and says, 'Yes, you were right, he's missed his yorker.' "
It was a good cricketing story, a rare thing in a media conference these days, and Broad deserved credit himself for sharing it with a wider audience. He thinks it has a deeper significance. "That confidence is what you want in a set up," he said. "We have a youngish batting line up which at times might not come off, but we have a three-week period where it would be lovely if it did.
"There had been question marks against us in these conditions and the Afghans had made a real statement against India. There were a few questions floating above our heads so for us to put in as powerful a performance is really pleasing."
Broad describes Bairstow as "a fantastic striker of spin." He measures it up, keeps it simple and belts it miles. Buttler's game can look more gauche, but his captain's expectations are just as high. "Jos hasn't needed to come in against spin in his short international career but I have never seen a guy hit a further ball in training. A slow languid swing and it goes miles. So I think they both go to the crease with confidence."
Buttler can score quickly even when he looks under duress. He attempted a reverse sweep against his first ball from Mohammad Nabi and was struck on the grille of the helmet, as ungainly an end it was possible to invent. Ah well, that's just how it goes, he seemed to conclude. Next ball, he was fortunate not to be stumped off a wide when Nabi outfoxed him and slipped one down the leg side. He was dropped third ball; it could have been a horrible nought.
Such niceties seem to wash over Buttler. It is his job; sometimes it gets messy. He possesses enough natural power to make light of the misconceived moments as long as he remains at the crease. When he fell lbw to the seam bowler, Izatullah Dawlatzai, he had made 15 from seven balls, three of which had thundered to the boundary.
As Broad said: "Every time we play India in England, we are expected to do well and every time they play in their conditions they are expected to do well against us. We are out of our comfort zones. But we have beaten Pakistan and Australia in warm-ups and it's important we continue that momentum." It is doubtful that either Bairstow or Buttler have worried about such niceties.
If England's approach goes to plan then Bairstow and Buttler might have a few short innings to play. It does not matter how much you remove overs from a game of cricket, a statistician will eventually prove that preservation of early wickets is crucial. England certainly take that view in T20.
"If you have a batsman in at the end you have a chance and that's what we hammer home to the guys," Broad said. "The statistics are quite clear that it is the team that loses the fewer wickets after eight overs that wins 80% of the games.
"Obviously you don't want to be 10 for 1, but it's much better to be 40 for 1 than 70 for 3. Then you can really go at the end. If you look at the likes of Bairstow and Buttler, they can really go in the last five."
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala