Jos Buttler's heroics were not enough for England this time around vs Pakistan


Having thumped the ball past mid-off to bring up his ninth ODI century, Jos Buttler flicked his bat up to acknowledge the crowd’s applause.

There was nothing celebratory about it. He knew the job was far from done and how right he was.
England had been woeful in the field, their bowling had underwhelmed and Pakistan had punished them, racking up 348-8 to set the hosts a World Cup record run-chase at Trent Bridge.

Joe Root did his bit to keep England in the hunt, cashing in after being dropped on 10 to make 107 at a little faster than a run-a-ball, but when he was dismissed with 11 overs to go, England’s hopes rested with Buttler.

It is nothing new. Over the last few years England fans have grown accustomed to this team chasing down imposing targets, often making it look incredibly simple and as often as not that has been down to the brilliance of Buttler.

The 28-year-old is a player of freakish talent and there are few in world cricket with his ability to time a chase. He has just about every shot in the book and uses them to devastating effect, but, most importantly, especially in ODI cricket, is that he has the intelligence to know when to do so and the nerve to bide his time when that is what’s required.

He had done it again here, effortlessly working his way up towards three figures at a strike rate hovering around 135, producing an array of perfectly-timed and expertly-placed drives to go with a couple of his lustier blows down the ground and over the legside.

The shot that brought up his century was of the latter variety, bludgeoned past the diving Shadab Khan, bouncing a couple of times and clattering into the advertising hoardings.

It left England needing 61 to win from 33 balls. Tricky, but with Buttler there, eminently doable. We’ve seen this one before.

Only this time there was a twist, or to be more precise, a flick of his fingers from Mohammad Amir. Just enough to take the pace off the ball, deceive Buttler and leave England facing the harsh reality of trying to score 61 from 32 balls.

England v Pakistan - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Given the fare that England served up for so many years in one-day cricket prior to the revolution under Eoin Morgan since the last World Cup, it is amazing to think that we – fans, pundits, perhaps even the players themselves – have become so blasé about chasing down scores of 320, 330, even 350.

It might not be seen as a given, but plenty now expect England to find a way and certainly there is no real surprise when they do so. After all, they’ve got Buttler and even if he doesn’t manage then there are plenty of others capable of taking the lead.

In fact, there have been times when he hasn’t even been needed, some combination of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Root, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes have done the damage instead. That is why there is such expectation among England supporters and it is why it was something of a surprise not to see Buttler, or any one of that top six, finish it off.

You can theorise to your heart’s content as to why and how England finished the match with two centurions but no points. There is the early dismissals of Roy and Bairstow, who have frequently turned a challenging 50-over chase into a leisurely 40-over stroll with their brutal hitting in the powerplay.

England v Australia – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Warm Up

You could point to Morgan and Stokes, eating up deliveries to set themselves, but getting out before they could make amends, or to Root and Buttler, neither of whom were able to see the job through.

Even to horribly out of nick Moeen Ali, at his best a match for any of the top six when it comes to boundary hitting, who managed just 19 from 20 balls – when you consider England lost by just 14 it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot more to get them over the line.

No doubt there will be those who suggest the pressure of playing at a home World Cup got to England, that it is all well and good chasing down 341 and 359, as they did against Pakistan in the ODI series last month, but doing so in the heat of a World Cup is what really matters.

Of course, England do need to prove that they can hit those heights at a major tournament, but, ultimately, they scored 334 at Trent Bridge. Their batting was not the problem.

England were woeful in the field, their bowling underwhelmed and Pakistan punished them.
Even this supremely talented batting line-up, Buttler, Root and all, cannot be expected to produce miracles every time.

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