No.6 on Wisden’s Test innings of the year list – as part of our 2020 in Review series – is Jos Buttler’s counter-attacking 75 in the first Test between England and Pakistan.
Jos Buttler 75 (101)
England v Pakistan
Old Trafford, Manchester
England are 106-4, Yasir Shah’s got the rough at his disposal, and Jos Buttler looks out of place in Test cricket.
He’s only just rediscovered some form with the bat; his 67 in the third Test against West Indies followed 14 consecutive innings without a Test fifty. But now he’s struggling with the gloves, having dropped a couple of catches and missed a stumping in Pakistan’s first dig. After 79 Test innings, Buttler has one century and an average in the low thirties. Ed Smith’s grand experiment, to turn the white-ball phenomenon into a success against the red, looks to have failed.
But then there’s a cover drive off Yasir that tells you why he’s been given such a long rope. And then he lashes it through the same region to take him to eight from seven. England need 161 to win, Buttler’s bashing it like he’s got the pyjamas on in a 50-over game, and the chase is well and truly on.
Ollie Pope won’t join him for the ride, though; Shaheen Afridi gets one to spit with venom and leap off Pope’s wrist for a simple grab. It’s a reminder that this Old Trafford surface will provide a fatal blow eventually, and Buttler knows it. He also knows he can’t wait for trouble with the second new ball, so he doubles down. He meets Yasir with the reverse sweep. Four. The leggie goes around the wicket, into the rough, and is swept conventionally. Four. He comes back over the wicket and Buttler takes on the reverse again. Four. All this while the more orthodox Chris Woakes is racing along at the other end, providing Azhar Ali’s Pakistan with a world of worry.
After tea Buttler drives Shadab, pulls Naseem and, with each run, cuts through the Pakistani dream. Woakes is playing the innings of his life – he really should be on this list too – and while there are moments of tension, the bowlers are unable to string together a long enough sequence of dots to turn the tide. In the fourth innings, on this pitch, it’s unacceptable – but it’s what Buttler and Woakes have dictated with a partnership that moves at more than four an over.
Moments after he smacks Shadab for six over cow, Buttler finally perishes for a 101-ball 75, trapped in front by Yasir after failing to connect with a reverse sweep. His great weapon has proved to be his downfall, but the dependable Woakes takes England over the line for a win that will go on to secure the series.
Afterwards, Buttler laments his mishaps with the gloves and admits that he must do better. And yet we’ve also learned from elsewhere that his father had been admitted to hospital the previous day.
England are 1-0 up, Yasir Shah’s been hit to all parts, and Jos Buttler has played a hell of a Test knock.