Jos Buttler shows the brains and the brawn on Test return

High and handsome: Jos Buttler launches one down the ground PA Photos

The ball is full and straight, just short of a half-volley, it should be punched, maybe whipped, at best aggressively driven. Instead, the front foot moves an inch or two to give space, the batsman waits until the ball is under his eyes, and then he whips his hands through it. The ball clears the bowler, umpire, long-on, sightscreen, camera operators and lands somewhere in the Rugby stadium. You can still hear the noise off the bat; it doesn't sound like other cricket shots. It doesn't look like them either. It looks like a baseballer playing golf.

Jos Buttler strikes at 55 in Tests.

Pakistan probably, maybe, had a chance to bring themselves back into this match. England's lead was only 46, the allrounders were about to come in, and Buttler was forcing a ball in the air to short midwicket. It went straight to Hasan Ali, who dropped it, checked his finger, and then chased after it as it went to the rope. It would be the last time Pakistan were in the match.

Buttler hit a boundary before he was dropped, when he was dropped, and the ball after he was dropped. But he hit one more boundary over his following 65 balls. It was tough. Buttler would survive a good period of reverse swing, the second new ball, being hit on the head, the end of the day, the start of the next day, and the inevitable collapse of the tail.

But there was no sign that this was the same Buttler who is the only player close to AB de Villiers to being a near perfect T20 batsman. Buttler scores a boundary just over every five deliveries, and he scores off nearly 70% of his balls.

But in first-class cricket that Buttler has never shown up. Buttler is 27, has played 82 first-class matches, and averages 32 while striking at 58. Since the end of 2015, before he played at Lord's, he'd played eight Tests. Buttler only has four first-class hundreds, his last in 2014.

In that match, Lancashire were chasing 340 against Durham, they were 74 for 4 when Buttler entered. Lancashire ended up on 312, Buttler made 100 not out from 131 balls.

Last year Sky Sports did a special during the T20 Blast where they got Andrew Flintoff and Buttler to show how they hit sixes. Flintoff cleared the ropes, but struggled to go much further, Buttler looked like he was about to clear the stand. When asked about the segment, Nasser Hussain said: "Jos is a freak, I don't even think he knows how good he is".

Often with white-ball cricketers who haven't made it in Test cricket, players look down on them, write them off. Ex-players don't do that with Buttler much; they make boyish squeals when talking about him. You hear he's a proper player, the real deal, something special.

Ed Smith was brought in as chief selector of English cricket with a remit that included data. There is no recent data on Buttler in first-class cricket because he barely plays it, and when he did, he wasn't much good at it. Even in these fallow days of English batting, where almost everyone seems to have a sub-40 first-class batting average, Buttler's is low.

"What England want is for Buttler to play as he does in white ball...Today was an exaggerated ODI innings. Got himself in, then exploded when they needed it. If he trusts his instincts, he will burn some Test attacks"

In these two Tests, the team obsessed with allrounders has picked a specialist No. 7 batsman. It's rare you see a 27-year-old with 18 Tests playing as a non-bowling or non-keeping No. 7. In fact, in the last ten years, England have played 127 Tests, in only four have they played a specialist batsman at seven. All four occasions have been Buttler.

And that is because Buttler is something special, and worth risking, and because England's batting isn't as good as it should be. Since the start of 2017 Stokes and Bairstow average 37 and 32, Root can't find hundreds, and Alastair Cook barely gets to learn his partners' names. That's when you make a big call on someone like Buttler.

But you can use all the advanced algorithmic data to create weighted true batting averages you want. Averaging 24 in eight games of first-class since the start of 2016 cricket is terrible.

But - and this has been happening for a very long time now - Buttler was picked on white-ball form. But the actual form was not for England as much as it was for Rajasthan Royals, and that is newer. Buttler averaged 54 for the Royals this season. Since the beginning of 2013 in major T20 leagues, Buttler has the 28th most runs, and he's averaged 35. He also averages 38 in ODIs.

Think about those averages for a minute: Buttler averages more in white-ball cricket than he does in both levels of red ball. It's more than possible, as usually happens when players have a low first-class average, that Buttler won't ever be a consistent run-scorer at this level. But he might be an occasionally brilliant one.

What England want is for Buttler to play as he does in white ball, coach Trevor Bayliss said: "We've spoken to him about thinking about his batting the way he does his one-day batting". Today was an exaggerated ODI innings. Got himself in, then exploded when they needed it. If he trusts his instincts, he will burn some Test attacks.

At Lord's, Buttler batted a mile out of his crease, because he likes the ball coming on to the bat, and to combat the swing. At Headingley, according to CricViz, all the England team batted a mile out of their crease. Buttler innovates, it's natural for him, and what he chooses often works.

Buttler was 45 off 90; it was a quality Test knock. When Sam Curran was dismissed, Buttler activated T20 beast mode: four, six, one, one, four, four, dot, four, six and four.

35 off 11.

The ball after Buttler's ball losing six, Faheem Ashraf took the replacement ball and charged back in with many sweepers out. He tried for the wide full yorker, so he could get out of the over alive. It was clear what Pakistan were worrying about was another colossal swing from Buttler. But he did something else. He stayed still, guided the ball in front of point. It was elegant, calm and he was entirely in control. It sprinted to the boundary, Buttler was 80 not out.

Jos Buttler strikes at 144 in T20s.