Jos Buttler’s emergence as a rising star of international Twenty20 cricket is rewarding the faith England have placed in the Somerset stalwart as a wicketkeeper-batsman.
Buttler’s maiden half-century at full international level could not keep England competitive as New Zealand outplayed them on Tuesday for a 55-run win which made it 1-1 in the three-match series.
However, it was another undeniable demonstration of the 22-year-old’s precocious talent, as he followed up successive fifties last week in England’s two warm-up matches against a New Zealand XI.
In the absence of Kevin Pietersen, rested until the start of the Test series next month and yet to play a Twenty20 international since his temporary limited-overs retirement last year, England still have a clutch of ‘game-changers’ in their ranks.
Somerset’s Buttler is most definitely one, and it seems his status as first-choice wicketkeeper may have helped him to turn potential into runs.
It is a moot point whether it was the intention of England’s new limited-overs coach Ashley Giles – when he nominated Buttler to keep wicket ahead of Jonny Bairstow at the start of this tour – to instil extra confidence. But the dual role, and perhaps the certainty of selection, is clearly agreeing with him.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more myself, and I’m really enjoying the environment and thriving off it,” said Buttler.
“I’m really enjoying the wicketkeeping, and it’s an area of my game I’m really developing. It’s something I want to do more and more.”
He does not know whether he or Bairstow will be entrusted with the gloves for the one-day international series which follows almost immediately after tomorrow’s Twenty20 decider in Wellington.
“I’m not sure yet,” he added. “I’m just looking to this game on Friday – a huge one for all of us. It’s a ‘final’, and set up brilliantly in Wellington.”
It does not appear likely, either, that Buttler will be pushed up the order from number six, where he hit nine fours and a towering six in Tuesday’s 28-ball half-century at Hamilton’s Seddon Park.
“We’re very happy with our plans and the way we’re going, and we’ve got an adaptable order anyway,” he said.
“At certain times it chops and changes, but we’ll be looking to stick to the formula we have that’s been successful and put it into practice again.”
It is a recipe which did not work for England in Hamilton on Tuesday as they fell well short of requirements, after Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum hit 74 from 38 balls. But Buttler insists they are capable of returning to the level of performance which saw them win the series opener by 40 runs.
“From the game in Auckland, where we played brilliantly, it was a bit of a role reversal,” he said.
“We didn’t play to the best of our ability. We know that, but we put that behind us and look forward to putting in a really good performance in Wellington.
“They’re a dangerous side with some quality Twenty20 players. McCullum played really well, and I thought they bowled brilliantly at the top.
“Those early wickets really put you on the back foot in Twenty20. But we’re very confident for Friday.”
Mitchell McClenaghan caused England’s early stumble, with two wickets in two balls – including the dangerous Luke Wright for a golden duck. The Kiwi left-armer senses that the tourists will remain vulnerable.
“I think they got in their own heads, from what I heard,” he said. “We just do what we do and put some pressure on – and if they make mistakes then it plays into our hands.”