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Jos Buttler calls for greater intensity despite schedule cramping England's plans

Run of 12 matches in 25 days means training has been at a premium for new-look team

Jos Buttler and Keshav Maharaj pose with the series trophy after a 1-1 draw  •  Getty Images

Jos Buttler and Keshav Maharaj pose with the series trophy after a 1-1 draw  •  Getty Images

Jos Buttler, England's captain, says that a lack of training time amid a tight schedule has hindered the progression of the white-ball team, after the final ODI of the summer, against South Africa, was abandoned.
Only 27.4 overs of play were possible on Sunday at Headingley as rain washed out the rest of the day, resulting in an underwhelming climax and a series tied at one-all. The result means England have won just two ODI matches out of six in the last two weeks.
With the 50-over World Cup taking place in October 2023, there is still plenty of time to fine-tune England's plans - and plenty of fine-tuning to be done. However Buttler, along with white-ball coach Matthew Mott had hoped to use the last two weeks, during which time they have been able to call upon a full-strength batting line-up, to fashion their own ethos following the departure of the charismatic Eoin Morgan as captain last month.
Unfortunately, a period of 12 T20I and ODI matches in 24 days - this being the ninth of that stretch - has allowed little opportunity between games to put that into practice. In the last week, England have had just one training session, the day before the second ODI at Emirates Old Trafford, something which Buttler described as a "frustration" and a contributory factor to what have been indifferent performances at the start of his tenure.
"I think those training days are really important for that team cohesion, the energy within the group, the fielding drills, the camaraderie around the guys without the pressure of a game," Buttler said on Sunday evening. "And they're really vital to high performance. When you miss that chance as well, there's a frustration. It is how it is, and that's sort of the way this month has panned out. If we find those situations again, we just have to, I think, just find a way… even if you can't give 100%, can you give 90% of 90? That's a bit of a learning."
"It's tough, a lot of the time around training is when you do your best work, away from the pressures of the game, having good conversations and having a feel for where the group is at. And not just always in game mode, preparing for guys on the day. To get the highest standard of cricket possible, you need to prepare properly. Hopefully that's something we can look at going forward. As a new captain, just having that time to bed in and do that work around your players and with your coaches. That's been a frustration to be truthfully honest - it would be nice to have that time to do the work. But we don't, so you just have to adapt and find the best way. It's been a good challenge. "
South Africa were no doubt the ones to feel the most aggrieved by the washout, having got to a healthy 159 for 2 with little more than half their overs gone, and with a chance even to exceed their 333 for 5 in the first ODI, their highest total in England. Quinton de Kock found his touch after two false starts of 19 and five in the first two ODIs, and peeled off a near-perfect 92 not out that looked nailed on for century number 18.
The two wickets taken - David Willey removing Janneman Malan and Adil Rashid accounting for Rassie van der Dussen - were the only joy for the hosts, and both dismissals were at odds with an otherwise comfortable start from the Proteas. There was a degree of inevitability about England's approach in the field, given how sharp the turnover was coming into this fixture. Victory in Manchester to square the series came on Friday, before the team travelled to Leeds on Saturday, arriving in the afternoon ahead of the 11am start on Sunday.
Nevertheless, Buttler was critical of what he perceived as a lack of enthusiasm on the field, and challenged his players to give more of themselves, even amid the packed fixture list.
"I only just said to the guys, I thought we didn't have quite the same intensity we had on Friday night," he said. " And I know it's easy to say that when you get wickets and everyone's up and about, but I thought we didn't quite have the same intent and energy… maybe only for the first 10 overs of that 20 overs.
"I thought there was a clear difference when we do have it, so just to encourage us to always try and find that as a team. Take the result out of winning or losing, to make sure we're always competing at our best and highest intensity.
"In theory it sounds easy: it's one-all and you're playing a series decider. But there's no getting past the schedule does make that tough."
Next up is the T20I series against South Africa which begins on Wednesday in Bristol, the first of three matches in five days. It will be the final action for England's limited-overs team this summer before a seven-T20I tour of Pakistan ahead of the World Cup in the format, which begins in Australia in October. Though conditions will not be reflective of what is to come, given how bowler-friendly the one-day surfaces have been this summer, Buttler hopes players will be revived by the opportunity to put a marker down for the 15-man squad, and show what they are capable of in order to secure what would be his first series win as skipper.
"These are the games we want to be working towards, finding out our best combination, having in mind Australian conditions. We might not get those in these next few games, but it's important to have in the back of your mind, exposing people to certain situations or give opportunities in certain areas which may not look right on the day, but in three to four months' time it may have a bearing.
"It would be great to get out there and play some of our best cricket, which we have been short on so far. Just that level of intensity, knowing there's a World Cup around the corner, guys trying to put themselves forward for a starting XI in a World Cup - which is exciting."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo