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Buttler puts in a middle-order masterclass

ESPNcricinfo Ltd

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