How England use Jos Buttler will go some way to determining their end performance in this year’s T20 World Cup.
Buttler opened against South Africa on Wednesday, but with a number of high class alternative options available up top in the form of Tom Banton – who was left out of the T20I squad for the South Africa series – Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy and Dawid Malan and with England lacking a classical finisher beyond Eoin Morgan, Buttler, despite his excellent record opening the batting in T20 cricket, might be of more use to this England team lower down the order.
On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, host Yas Rana discussed the topic with Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor Jo Harman and Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker:
JH: I’ve been very much in the camp that Jos Buttler should open because he’s too good not to face as many balls as possible and partly because I just want to watch him bat more than anything. But yesterday did convert me to think that actually England have got so many top order options that we’re better off using Buttler in a specialist role and make sure he’s in for the last five overs, whether than means he bats four, five or six. We’ve got plenty of top order options with Roy, Bairstow, Banton, Malan and what they’re lacking is someone to do the Buttler role in the middle order, which cost them yesterday.
Eoin Morgan was kicking himself when he got out trying to hit the last ball of the penultimate over for six when actually, if he’d knocked it down to long on, they would have needed five off the last over – job done. But then we saw after he was gone that Moeen is not that player, that’s not his role, coming in against the quicks for the last couple of overs.
YR: Joe Denly not the answer then?
JH: It’s usually me banging the drum for Joe Denly, but not in T20 cricket for me. Not in the role that he is batting. That’s not a role he’s really played for much of his career at all. I think there are better options in T20 cricket.
YR: Phil, where would you bat Buttler?
PW: Probably four or five in that slightly floating position to ensure as best you can that he’s batting in the last five, six or seven overs of a T20 game. He’s done it so many times before and as Jo rightly says, with the exception of Morgan you don’t have a natural finisher. Stokes’ record is oddly indifferent in T20 cricket for England.
JH: That’s generous – with the bat it’s terrible!
PW: That’s the most coruscating criticism I can manage – oddly indifferent. Buttler did tear it up in the IPL as an opening bat. I think he made five or six half-centuries pretty much in a row. Bizarrely, such is the modern game, it got him in the Test team, but I think on balance, you have such power up top – Tom Banton, you tell me is not actually in this squad, but he is clearly a T20 player ready to go, he proved it in the Big Bash, and I would personally bat him up top with Roy, probably with Bairstow at three and then four, five and six is a combination of Morgan, Buttler and Stokes.
YR: I guess the problem with Jos Buttler is that he is so good that he can basically do anything in a T20 game – you can totally see why an IPL franchise would want him to face as many balls as possible but as you say, England are very top heavy, the gap in the team is for somebody to bat lower down.
You can listen to the full episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast on the Podcast App or Spotify.