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T20 World Cup 2021

The rise and rise of Jos Buttler, the T20I opener at the peak of his powers

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Not long ago, there was plenty of debate surrounding where Jos Buttler should bat in England’s T20I batting line-up.

The question was this: while he was thriving at the top of the order, would England not be best served by Buttler’s ability as a finisher in the middle order, an area where they appeared relatively weak?

With the emergence of Liam Livingstone as a lower-order hitter and Buttler’s own continued excellence, that volume of that debate continues to lower.

On Saturday, Buttler’s power was on show as he put Australia to the sword in a thumping eight-wicket win. With England set a target of 126, Buttler took his side home with a 32-ball 71* which included five fours and five monstrous sixes. At one stage, Mitchell Starc, one of the quickest bowlers in the world, was deposited for back-to-back maximums.

After landing a red-inker when taking England home against West Indies in the campaign opener, Buttler is his side’s leading run-scorer in the tournament with 113 runs at an average of 113 and a strike rate of 156.94.

More impressive, however, is the overall record Buttler continues to build as a T20I opener. Since first taking on the role in 2016, Buttler has opened the batting in 25 matches and hit 988 runs at an average of 54.88. Of those to have opened the batting in at least nine T20I innings, only one man averages more than Buttler – Mohammad Rizwan’s 1000 runs have been delivered at an average of 76.92. Buttler, however, holds a higher strike rate of 149.01; Rizwan’s is 136.61.

All of England’s matches at the T20 World Cup so far have involved them chasing a target, and this is where Buttler truly comes alive. Of his 25 knocks as an opener, 17 have involved batting second: across those knocks, Buttler has hit 706 runs at an average of 70.60, including eight half-centuries. England have won 14 of those matches, and in those his average moves to 90.

Furthermore, in those 14 victories, Buttler has finished not out on seven occasions; he has a fine knack of turning a quick start into a match-winning half-century.

Buttler broke new ground in his extraordinary knock on Saturday: his strike rate of 221.87 was his highest from a completed innings as a T20I opener – he continues to elevate his game to new levels.

He has formed a settled opening partnership with Jason Roy, the pair’s 792 runs together – at an average of 34.43 – is more than any other England opening pair in men’s T20Is.

Even when he wasn’t opening the batting in T20Is, Buttler was a match-winner for England. As a middle-order operator at the 2016 World T20, he finished as the fifth-highest run-scorer in the tournament, racking up 191 runs at an average of 47.75 and strike rate of 159.16 as England finished runners-up.

While his role has since changed, his rise and rise as an opener means England stand a fine chance of going one step further five years on.

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