Performance of the Day: Joss Buttler
The Somerset batsman's spectacular cameo will give him a lot of self-belief going to the World Cup
When 22-year-old Joss Buttler arrived at the crease, England were 64-3 with just 16 balls left of their allocated 11 overs in a rain-reduced game. After Buttler’s blitzkrieg, they finished with 118-5, an almost unbeatable score on such a slow pitch.
Buttler transformed England’s fortunes with his spectacular cameo, blasting 32 runs in just 10 deliveries. But Buttler also transformed his own reputation at this level.
In 10 previous Twenty20s (six innings), the Somerset player averaged seven with a top score of 13. And his one outing in an ODI brought him a duck. But the England selectors kept faith, which says a lot about their sound judgment.
Even so, it looked a questionable decision to send Buttler out ahead of Jonny Bairstow. Bairstow, also 22, is a proven performer. His two innings against South Africa at Lord’s stabilized his position in the England set-up and he's a powerful striker of the ball.
But Buttler played an innings as sensational as the one Bairstow played on his ODI debut against India last August, when he struck three sixes in his match-winning 41 off just 21 balls.
Buttler waited a little longer than Bairstow to demonstrate a precocious talent for hitting a cricket ball out of the ground. But his timing was perfect. Just 12 hours after the end of the match, he will board a plane for Sri Lanka, buzzing with self-belief.
His 10-ball innings began quietly with a single off the offspin of Botha. But then he found himself facing Wayne Parnell and the fireworks kicked off.
Buttler set himself back in the crease and then dispatched the first ball of the over off a good length way into the stands behind the bowler. His clean strike was sensational.
Unnerved, Parnell sent his second ball wide of the off stump, but Buttler reached across and played a similarly powerful straight drive for a second straight six. The third ball was driven for two to cover and the fourth was a wide no ball.
The no ball gave the batsman a free hit and Buttler brought out the shot he is famous for - the Dilshan scoop. Parnell was chipped deftly over short long leg and the ball sped away for four.
To torment Parnell further, it was another no ball, which meant another free hit for Buttler.
Knowing Buttler’s propensity for the scoop, Parnell fired the ball so wide of off stump that it would have been called a wide, but Buttler still managed to walk right across his stumps and scoop the ball to the fine leg boundary.
Where could Parnell bowl? He tried a length ball on Buttler’s legs next, but this was smashed into the stands over mid wicket with another perfect strike. A final pull to mid wicket for two brought the tally for the Parnell over to 32 runs. A single off Morkel completed Buttler’s fun.
His runs will put England in the right frame of mind travelling to Sri Lanka. And when Buttler arrives at the crease in the Twenty20 World Cup, there will now be a frisson of anticipation.