‘The game is about making good decisions ball after ball’ — Jos Buttler
England’s first Test of the home summer, against Pakistan, almost slipped away from their grasp on the third day at Lord’s before Jos Buttler and Dominic Bess revived them somewhat.
After Pakistan finished their first innings on 363 for a lead of 179, England had slipped to 110/6 and were staring at an innings defeat. But an unbroken association of 125 runs between Buttler (66*) and Bess (55*) not only helped England pull level, but also took them 56 runs ahead and gave them a glimmer of hope.
“Partnerships are crucial and we managed to put together a good one there,” said Buttler after the day’s play. “Tomorrow we need to make it as big as we can. As Joe (Root) said in the dressing room, it’s a hard wicket to start on. If you can get through that initial phase, it gets easier and both Dom and I managed to do that.”
Buttler, who was in excellent form in IPL 2018, where he scored 548 runs from 13 innings – including five consecutive half-centuries – for Rajasthan Royals, carried his form to red ball-cricket.
“It felt great. You’re trying to use all your experience from every tournament and everything you’ve learnt about situations,” said Buttler, who earned a surprise call-up to the Test side after last turning out in the format in December 2016. “The game is about making good decisions ball after ball.
“Feeling in good form, playing in front of big crowds in India, it’s got a very similar feel. It’s a big occasion and trying to pull from those experiences.”
Playing as a specialist batsman at No.7 with Jonny Bairstow continuing to wear the big gloves, Buttler said he was happy “to show that I can play” Test cricket.
“I spoke before the game about not worrying about the colour of the ball and trying to keep a very good mindset, which I’ve had for the last three weeks. Looking to score, not necessarily boundaries, but just getting off strike,” he added.
Asad Shafiq, the Pakistan batsman who scored 59 in the first innings, also praised the effort of the England seventh-wicket pair.
“Credit must be given to their batsmen for handling our bowling,” he said. “They built a sensible partnership. They first saw off the ball and then attacked us. The ball was moving but Buttler and Dom Bess played very mature innings.”
Shafiq is, however, confident that the Pakistan pacers will make the best possible use of the new ball – due in two overs – and keep the target under 150.
“We will try to hit the right areas when we come in the morning so we get a lower target. A new ball is also due in the morning. It won’t be easy to play it on this wicket. Especially, the way (Mohammad) Amir and (Mohammad) Abbas are bowling, it will be very difficult for this pair to handle them,” said Shafiq.
“Everyone is very confident. Everybody is saying that we will chase the target, whatever it will be. The way our new boys batted against Ireland gave confidence to them and to the whole team. It made us realise how we have to go about our tasks if wickets fall early on.
“We will not be happy to chase anything over 150. We will try to get them out below 150 as we have to bat in the fourth innings.”