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Six defining shots of Jos Buttler's T20 World Cup

The England opener is in possibly the best nick of his T20 career and this tournament he's come out swinging

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Buttler's maiden T20I hundred came off a last ball six in his innings against Sri Lanka  •  Matthew Lewis/ICC/Getty Images

Buttler's maiden T20I hundred came off a last ball six in his innings against Sri Lanka  •  Matthew Lewis/ICC/Getty Images

Jos Buttler is the T20 World Cup's second-highest run scorer after the Super 12s stage. He played two of its standout innings in the space of three days: 71 not out against Australia and 101 not out against Sri Lanka. Buttler has produced a number of breathtaking shots over the past two weeks: here are six of the best.
The shot that got Buttler's World Cup up and running? After a subdued 24 not out in a small chase against West Indies, Buttler worked hard in the nets against Liam Dawson, one of England's travelling reserves, in the knowledge that Bangladesh would target him and Jason Roy with left-arm spin early on - a preferred tactic for a majority of opposition teams since the pair started opening the batting together.
Bowling from around the wicket, Shakib drags his pace back a touch to 51mph/82kph and offers a hint of flight as he goes full, giving Buttler enough time to shimmy towards the pitch and crack his hands through the ball, watching with a golfer's follow-through as it sails back over Shakib's head. With long-off back and a long straight boundary, he could not afford a mishit but his clean strike travels 90 metres, clearing the rope with ease.
England vs Australia, Dubai
4.3, Josh Hazlewood to Buttler, three runs
Only three runs, but a shot that encapsulates why Buttler has been so successful since his promotion to open the batting for England in T20 cricket. Hazlewood needs to attack after England's bright start in pursuit of a small target and goes in for the kill with an 89mph/144kph yorker, homing in on the base of off stump. Buttler sits deep in his crease, clearing his front leg to access the off side, and jams the bat down late with an open face, steering it into the gap between point and extra cover.
It demonstrated his ability to score off good balls, using the fielding restrictions to his advantage by piercing gaps with relatively orthodox shots; as an England opener, Buttler averages 64.55 in the powerplay while maintaining a strike rate of 152.89. See his top-of-the-bounce punches for four through the off side against Lahiru Kumara and Kagiso Rabada for further evidence.
The power of this shot is evident in isolation, but its brilliance is only fully apparent in the context of the previous delivery. The first ball that Starc bowled to Buttler in his second over was a defensive one, hitting a good length at 89mph/143kph and angling it across the batter in the hope of a push into the covers, but Buttler sat deep in his crease, cleared his front leg and swung it into the top tier with his back hip driving through.
The follow-up is a touch straighter as Starc searches for a yorker, but he misses his length and finds the slot at 89mph/144kph. Buttler takes a step back into his crease, almost turning it into a good-length ball. He clears his front leg, allowing himself scope to hit the ball anywhere from backward point to midwicket. Mid-on is up, and Starc watches with a grimace as it flies over wide long-on. The second six is measured at 95 metres, one metre further than the previous ball.
Buttler's own favourite shot of the tournament to date. Aaron Finch has set an attacking field in desperate need of a wicket, putting himself in at slip for Zampa's second over, but Buttler decides to skip down the pitch. Zampa spots him, throwing a flat, fast legbreak wide outside off stump, and Buttler has no choice but to commit to the shot, flicking his back leg flamingo-style as his fast hands take over.
"The time that you hit the biggest sixes, especially off spin, is when your last thought is 'I'm not there, I've been done,'" Liam Livingstone said during a six-hitting masterclass on Sky Sports this year. "You swing your hands through and if you connect with it, they go so much further than any others." This was the perfect example: Buttler was beaten in the flight and nowhere near the pitch of the ball, but he still sent this 102 metres into the stands to bring up a 25-ball fifty.
Kumara is Sri Lanka's fastest bowler and has been cranking it up through his spells in Sharjah, proving hard to get away in his first three by skidding the ball through at stump height from just short of a good length. England target his last, with Eoin Morgan and Buttler both hitting missed yorkers over wide long-off for six, and Kumara drags his pace back with the final ball of his spell, hoping that Buttler will miscue him to a boundary rider.
His full, dipping slower ball is clocked at 61mph/99kph, a drop of around 30mph/48kph from his quicker ball. Buttler has shuffled across as Kumara's back leg lands in his delivery stride, looking to hit leg side, but spots the variation, holding himself back for a split-second. He crouches low to get under the ball then whips his bottom hand through it, sending it crashing into the VIP seats back over the bowler's head.
Head-to-heads between Buttler and Nortje are never dull. The pair had a memorable battle in IPL 2020, which ended in a 96mph/155kph yorker ripping out Buttler's stumps after a four and six; in Test cricket, Buttler has scored 55 runs and been dismissed twice off the 41 balls he has faced from Nortje.
This one is no different. Buttler has pushed a single and cover-driven a boundary in Nortje's first over, and the first ball of his second is a skiddy 91mph/147kph length ball, angling in towards his box. Buttler takes half a step back into his crease as Nortje delivers, clearing his front leg, and smearing a pull 87 metres over the short boundary. Nortje gets him with a legcutter two balls later but this shot is the abiding memory of their match-up.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98