England vs Australia: How IPL stint powered Jos Buttler’s transformation in 5-0 demolition of visitors

Jos Buttler pulled off the unlikeliest of escapes just as Australia thought they had avoided an embarrassing whitewash at the hands of their oldest rivals.

Sarthak Dev, June 25, 2018

Great inventors are synonymous with their conceptions, their names roll off tongues at quizzes and trivia discussions. They get so closely linked with their work sometimes, that it almost walks shoulder-to-shoulder with them into history and popular culture. Can you utter the word relativity without thinking of Albert Einstein?

The English, as you would expect from the world's largest ever colonisers, are architects of some of the most popular sports today. But with football and cricket, their lack of global success has led to cultural and financial power-houses shifting elsewhere. With test and ODI cricket, the transition took time, owing to a smaller audience for the game in its first fifty years of existence, but with T20, different countries and leagues have picked up the craft real fast.

Cricket - England v Australia - Fifth One Day International - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - June 24, 2018 England's Jos Buttler celebrates after winning the match and series Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough - RC17A2910C60

Jos Buttler hit a match-winning hundred to help England clinch the ODI series against Australia. Reuters/Craig Brough

England have always looked at IPL with squinted eyes, suspicious that BCCI are doing to T20 cricket what Italians did to Brazilian coffee; repackage and sell it so efficiently that they become synonymous with the product. For years the ECB refused to send their best players for the tournament, and it took the rebellious streak in Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan to break the barriers. In a turn of fate, many poets of yore would be proud that England's ODI whitewash of Australia had its roots in the IPL and might finally prompt a change of heart.

The lasting images from the fifth ODI at Manchester would show a jubilant Jos Buttler, feet in the air, celebrating a century that completed the most unlikely scoreline for England in any series against Australia, regardless of format and conditions the teams find themselves in. Calling that innings just a century in a successful chase would be an understatement of epic proportions, similar to calling cricket "a little tilted towards batsmen."

It was an innings that defied logic and belief borne out of tradition. England don't beat Australia 5-0, Australia don't let opponents off once they have them on the mat and batting teams don't rescue a chase of 206 when they find themselves at 114-8.

Buttler is a modern batsman, nurtured by T20, and 21st-century batsmanship doesn't quite stand on ceremony with cricket from previous eras. The sport has moved on from Gavaskar's 60-over 36 not out to a team walking off at 481 after 50 overs feeling they were 20 short. Jos Buttler plays with a fearlessness synonymous with the best limited overs batsmen of this era and three entries in England's seven fastest ODI hundreds are a testament to his ability of clearing fences.

Almost everything pointed towards Buttler taking out the sword again at Old Trafford; in this series itself, he has had two whirlwind knocks of 91*(70) and 54*(29). One could grant him that approach with the scoreline reading 4-0 and two wickets left for Australia to make it 4-1. Jos Buttler, professional battering-ram, who had never faced more than 99 balls in his 114-match ODI career before, chose a calm, balanced approach. He played with a serenity that you would associate with an old-school opening batsman, happy to eschew all risk and hitting the odd bad ball for fours. On small English grounds in a trying situation, less than half of Jos Buttler's 110 runs came in boundaries. Just three weeks earlier, he had scored a similar 80 not out against Pakistan in a crunch phase during the second test.

You wouldn't have to look further than his stint as an opener for Rajasthan Royals at this year's IPL to make sense of this metamorphosis. Robbed of Steven Smith and carrying a heavily underperforming Ben Stokes, the Jaipur outfit promoted Buttler to open the innings along with Rahul Tripathi and the results were breathtaking. He ended the campaign with 548 runs to his name, almost as many as he had managed in his previous two seasons combined. What that did for Buttler, is allow him to play for time and pass on a message that getting dismissed after 35 from 18 balls isn't acceptable.

It immediately made him a safer batsman. He averaged 35 balls per dismissal during the 2018 IPL, as opposed to his T20 career average of 21. At Buttler's strike-rate, 14 extra deliveries can be game-turning. His six-hitting patterns also saw a substantial change. In his career, he has averaged 1.9 fours for every six he has hit; at the IPL, that number went up to 2.4. By changing his focus area, he was able to hit more boundaries thus reducing the risk of holing out in the deep. A career average of a four or a six every 5.9 balls was improved to 4.8 in the IPL. Minute the numbers may seem, but T20 is a game defined by these fine margins.

As I write this, Jos Buttler is hopping over to collect the Man of The Series trophy for an ODI series against Australia, closely following his Man of The Match and series rescuing efforts against Pakistan. For someone who has seen the highs and lows of international cricket in a period of fewer than 24 months, this must count as a glorious retribution.

It was against a severely under-par Australian side, but this series is going to go down in the annals of English cricket history, solely for the absurdity of the scoreline if nothing else. The final match and the impossible rescue act by Jos Buttler, will form the most well-crafted afterword to this already incredible story.

Updated Date: Jun 25, 2018







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