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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2021 T20I batting winner: Jos Buttler goes bam

On a pitch that offered batters nothing, Buttler conjured up a hundred that took England into the T20 World Cup semi-final

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
The humidity in Sharjah was suffocating, and so were conditions at the T20 World Cup. England were taken out of their chasing comfort zone, asked to bat first and work out what a par score was on a slow, low pitch that was being used for the third time in eight days. They made a dreadful start, reaching 47 for 3 at the ten-over drinks break.
Jos Buttler, who had hit 71 not out off 32 balls against Australia two nights previously, was 24 off 30; one of his two boundaries had been a thick inside edge past the keeper. Buttler and Eoin Morgan relayed to the dressing room that the pitch was offering so little bounce that 110 might be a competitive total.
Then, the explosion. Buttler punched the first ball after drinks for four through wide mid-off and threatened to cut loose with a four and a six off Chamika Karunaratne, bringing up a 45-ball half-century - the slowest by an England batter in a World Cup.
His next 51 runs took just 22 balls, and he clubbed the final ball of the innings - a full toss from Dushmantha Chameera - for six over midwicket to reach his first T20I hundred and take England to a defendable 163. Buttler had converted himself from a finisher into an opener over the previous four years; here, he combined those two aspects of his T20 career in a single innings.

Key moment

Karunaratne went fullish and straight with the first ball of his second over, the 13th, and Buttler had time to shift his weight back and muscle him for four through wide mid-on. The follow-up was a dipping slower ball that he picked out of the hand and clubbed over midwicket for his first six, taking his strike rate back above 100 for the first time since the powerplay.

The numbers

12 Runs Buttler scored from 24 balls facing Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, Sri Lanka's spinners; he took their seamers for 89 off 43.
1 Number of England men's players to have hit a century in all three formats - Buttler is the first (and the second England player overall after Heather Knight).
60.50 Buttler's average as a T20I opener after this innings, with a strike rate of 149.17

What they said

"Setting a target, the game isn't laid out for you, especially when you're finding it tricky early on. Soaking up some dot balls, you can put yourself under a bit of pressure but I kept on believing that at some point I would come good."
- Jos Buttler
"Jos being Jos"
- Eoin Morgan
"Best in the world"
- Ben Stokes

The closest contenders

Daryl Mitchell
72 not out vs England, T20 World Cup semi-final, Abu Dhabi
New Zealand were 13 for 2 in the third over chasing 167 and had a bowling-heavy team, meaning Mitchell, who had never opened in T20s before the World Cup, had to bat deep. He was 46 not out off 40 balls heading into the last four overs with 57 needed, but cut loose alongside Jimmy Neesham as New Zealand got home with an over to spare.
Matthew Wade
41 not out vs Pakistan, T20 World Cup semi-final, Dubai
Australia needed 81 off 46 when Wade came in at No. 7 against Pakistan in the semi-final, but his partnership with Marcus Stoinis cut that down to 20 off ten. Wade was dropped by Hasan Ali at deep midwicket, then hit Shaheen Shah Afridi for three sixes in a row - two of them scooped over fine leg.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98