(The Guardian) – “I’m not sure how you bowl at Jos Buttler,” said the well-travelled coach of Pakistan, Mickey Arthur, before adding: “You won’t stop him scoring fast. So you have to get him out.” A few moments later Buttler was asked whether he knew how the opposition should bowl at him. “No,” he replied, instinctively rather than arrogantly. “And if I did I wouldn’t say.”
Here is a conundrum that will exercise the minds of the other nine teams competing in the World Cup. At Southampton on Saturday on a sublime batting surface Buttler was devastating again, smashing a hundred in 50 balls, the second-fastest in his collection of eight ODI centuries. This ensured another England victory, albeit by 12 runs, after a valiant run chase by Pakistan triggered by a barnstorming innings of 138 from Fakhar Zaman.
Buttler’s innings was breathtaking yet it was not surprising. He delivers in this fashion ever more frequently. Consistency as well as carnage has become his goal. “In the last few years I’ve had some brilliant experiences,” he said. “A couple more years older I’ve worked things out a bit better, managing to drip feed those experiences into my game – to really chase that consistency and to want to perform every day. When you manage to do that a couple of times it breeds the confidence you can do it for an elongated period of time.”
At Southampton, his innings could hardly be described as conservative but perhaps there were fewer frills than in the past. The trademark scoops or reverse sweeps were seldom used; instead on this trustworthy surface he relied on power and timing even though the boundaries were so much longer than those he has encountered recently in the Indian Premier League.
Buttler thinks he can go faster than his 46-ball century in Dubai against Pakistan in 2015. “Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve seen other guys around the world show it’s possible.”
It may happen in this World Cup if the batting surfaces are like the one encountered at the Ageas Bowl. “We have played on some great wickets over the last few years in England,” Buttler said. “Traditionally they’ve been high scoring – especially the ones at the Ageas Bowl and Trent Bridge. When we played in the Champions Trophy in 2013 and 2017 there were some dry wickets. Over a long tournament there’s going to be some drier, used wickets along the way.”
Buttler recognised that the conditions were very much in his favour at Southampton, so he was not just being modest when he said: “The guys who won the game were in the bowling unit. David Willey bowled brilliantly in his final two spells.”
It was a typically generous assessment but there was no doubt who was going to receive the award for the man of the match – yet another one for Buttler, the wicket most coveted by England’s opponents in the forthcoming World Cup.