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Buttler ready to seize chance for Test return

Jos Buttler has said he is ready to shelve the reticence that undermined his last attempt at cracking Test cricket and believes he will be trusted by the team management to play his natural attacking game

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Jos Buttler blazed an unbeaten 73 against Sri Lanka to confirm his sky-high form and confidence  •  Getty Images

Jos Buttler blazed an unbeaten 73 against Sri Lanka to confirm his sky-high form and confidence  •  Getty Images

Jos Buttler has said he is ready to shelve the reticence that undermined his last attempt at cracking Test cricket and believes he will be trusted by the team management to play his natural attacking game if, as widely anticipated, he is handed a recall for next week's first Test against Pakistan at Lord's.
With a space opening up in England's middle order following Nick Compton's decision to take a break from cricket, and with doubts about Jonny Bairstow's wicketkeeping undermining his revelatory run of form with the bat against Sri Lanka, the path is clear for Buttler to resume his role with the gloves at No.7, especially if Ben Stokes, his fellow hard-hitting batsman, is deemed unready for an immediate recall following the knee operation that ruled him out of the last two Tests.
A return for Buttler at Lord's would, on the one hand, be something of a leap of faith, seeing as he has not played a red-ball match since England's Test tour of the UAE more than eight months ago. On that trip, he was dropped ahead of the final Test against Pakistan at Sharjah following a dramatic collapse in form and confidence. Since the start of the previous summer's Ashes at Cardiff, he had mustered 156 runs in seven Tests at 13.00, with a highest score of 42, at a strike-rate of less than a run every two balls.
However, Buttler's coruscating form in limited-overs cricket continued at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday night, when his unbeaten 73 from 49 balls eased England to an eight-wicket win in the one-off T20 against Sri Lanka, and his rediscovered confidence is so tangible that selectors appear sorely tempted to unleash him once again in the longest format.
Asked whether he felt it mattered that he hadn't played a first-class match for so long, Buttler responded, tellingly: "In the olden days maybe it would, but in the new set-up maybe not."
And should he be named in this weekend's squad, then Buttler believes that the recent injection of a have-a-go mentality into England's Test plans will allow him to play the natural game that has served him and his team-mates so well during his recent white-ball experiences, both for England at the World T20 and against Sri Lanka, and for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
"I don't think I'd be trying to bat time," he said of his likely Test gameplan. "Having had time out of the game and watching certain players in our team from the sidelines in South Africa and watching on the TV this summer - the way Jonny plays, the way Joe Root plays, the way Ben Stokes plays - they're always trying to put the pressure on. That's the way English cricket has gone. It's about scoring runs. It doesn't matter how, it's how many. You take your bat out there to score runs, so try to score them."
That was something that Buttler conspicuously failed to do towards the end of his previous stint in the Test team, particularly on the slow, low wickets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai when he appeared to fear the consequences of trusting his attacking instincts. But, with Trevor Bayliss, England's head coach, cultivating a "no fear" attitude to his team's strokeplay, Buttler believes he's ready for another go.
"If that's what the coach is telling you to do, it's a good start," he said. "It probably comes down to making peace with what you guys [the media] are going to write and what the public are going to think, and accepting that if you get caught at second slip having a big whoosh, so be it. I'd rather do that than leave one and get bowled. The game's about scoring runs. What I've learned, whatever colour the ball is, is that me trying to hit the ball is going to get the best out of myself."
Buttler was memorably encouraged by Bayliss to put his Test ambitions on the backburner earlier this year, and was given the go-ahead to sign a lucrative deal to play a full season of IPL cricket for Mumbai Indians. But the time away from the Test team has merely sharpened his desire to make amends for his shortcomings last time out.
"I've had some time away to think and put cricket into perspective," he said. "I've had some fantastic experiences over the last six months and learned a lot - just by siting there watching. I think the IPL was a fantastic experience. You come back so much more confident from that, brushing shoulders with those kind of guys. A lot more clarity about the mentality it takes to succeed.
"When you get dropped and left out, you have a good think," he added. "Obviously I've experienced some great things in the Test team, and you realise why it's the best form of the game. But when you get dropped you have that hunger to get back in. I haven't played red-ball cricket for a long time, but I've really enjoyed my cricket and enjoyed doing what I've been doing. Whatever happens, it doesn't change your ambition. Whatever colour the ball is, you want to score runs and influence the game."
In many ways, the confidence in Buttler's game is as significant as his obvious talent, for he readily admits that, at the age of 25, and with five years of experience at international level under his belt, he is better able now to rationalise the ups and downs of the sport that so clearly got to him late last year.
"It's the most confident I've felt," he said. "You gain another year. As a 21-year-old, when people said you'll become a better player with experience you don't really believe it. Maybe now I've understood what that means.
"Some of the experiences of the last year I've gone through, the highs and lows, have really put it in perspective - does it really matter, the cricket stuff? It's about not getting too caught up with everything, and just enjoying it. I've felt in good form. You try to capitalise on that and use your experience to make the most of it. It really boils down to enjoying your cricket and making the most of it.
And with that frame of mind, he feels really to conquer any logistical challenge that the international schedule can throw at him.
"When you're averaging 10, you're not going to be very confident. The word is conviction. I didn't have the same conviction as I had against the white ball. That's what I'll have to do. Show that conviction, that confidence, and take it on."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket