Buttler banishes the blues in stunning style
After smashing his own record for England's fastest ODI hundred of all time, Jos Buttler admitted he was at a loss to explain his stunning turnaround in fortunes, only three weeks after losing his place in the Test team following a moribund run of scores.
Buttler's unbeaten 116 from 52 balls propelled England to a total of 355 for 5, their highest score in an overseas ODI, and secured them a memorable 3-1 series win in the UAE. It included a century from 46 deliveries, 15 better than the 61-ball hundred he made against Sri Lanka at Lord's in May 2014, while his tally of eight sixes was the most by any England player in a single ODI innings, beating Andrew Flintoff's seven against West Indies at Lord's in 2004.
"To play like that is really satisfying after a very lean period," Buttler told Sky Sports after the match. "I don't really understand how it can turn around so fast, but it was a great day and to win the series over here is no mean feat. Everyone has enjoyed that win."
Buttler had cut a forlorn figure for much of England's tour of the UAE. He played in the first two Tests but was dropped after scores of 23, 4, 0 and 7. Since the start of the Ashes, his highest score in Test cricket had been 42, in the fifth Test at The Oval, and the confidence had ebbed away alarmingly from his naturally ebullient game.
"I think the format change came at the right time for me," he said. "It freed me up in one of my best formats to go and play in. But honestly I don't really know [what caused the turnaround]. It's not that I've trained any differently, everyone has said I've maybe been a bit more relaxed with the white ball around, but I still train the same and still work hard."
Buttler was named Man of the Series following his exploits in Dubai, although he had not been an instant success in the first two games of the four-match rubber. However, he played an important role in England's run-chase in the third game in Sharjah, sealing the six-wicket win with an unbeaten 49 from 50 balls, and that was enough to encourage his natural style to return to the fore.
"I think the confidence from Sharjah [helped]," he said. "It's given me a lot to get the monkey off my back and actually do something. It's one of those days."
Buttler's self-belief was also aided by a canny promotion up the order by his captain, Eoin Morgan, who sent him in at No.4 following a fine stand of 140 for the second wicket between Jason Roy and Joe Root.
"That was all Morgs' decision," Buttler said. "I was sat next to him and he said 'do you want to go and put your pads on?' Obviously we had a great platform from J-Roy and Rooty who played fantastically well and it was great to get the opportunity to go in a bit earlier and chance my arm."
He did it to mighty effect, setting his innings up with a 30-ball half-century before flailing a further 66 from his next 22 deliveries, as England added 129 in the final ten overs of their innings.
"Quite a lot of it is predetermining," Buttler said. "You never want to get too one-dimensional. If they bowl it where you don't think they are going to bowl it, you try to have another option and not get too over-committed. Obviously a lot of shots are 100% pre-meditated, but you try to have a way out."
Buttler admitted he would have to take a few days to realise quite what he had achieved with this latest innings, and even joked that his thoughts had been closer to retirement than record-breaking in the preceding weeks.
"I'm really proud, and it will probably sink in over the next few days," he said. "It was so satisfying after what has been a tough time. I was thinking about retiring two weeks ago, so it's amazing how it turns around. That's why we play the game, to have those moments that live on forever."
He also paid tribute to the role of his fellow centurion, Roy, who was rarely at his most fluent in a 113-ball maiden ODI hundred, but established the platform for England's victory.
"What a feeling, you saw his celebration, fantastic," Buttler said. "He's played really well in the last two series and he really wanted that hundred. When he got past fifty he really took that responsibility to get that score for the side. That's brilliant from him, it looked quite tricky early on, it swung around a bit, and I'm sure we'll see him kick on to be a fantastic player."
Ultimately though, Buttler said that securing a series win in the UAE was more significant than any individual feats. "It's about winning," he said. "It's great having talent and being a young group but we do need to win and we've come here and done it. The confidence it gives the dressing room and the group of guys, you can't underestimate that. There's a World Twenty20 coming up [in March] and we are building a really good side."
Trevor Bayliss, England's head coach, was equally astonished by what he had witnessed from Buttler. "I'm not sure I've got the words for what I saw tonight," he said. "It was unbelievable batting, and it wasn't just slogging either, it was very some good cricket shots and some shots that aren't in the coaching manual."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket