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ENG vs AUS, 2021 T20 World Cup

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“When he comes off like today, it’s very difficult to stop him,” says captain Morgan after Buttler’s 32-ball 71 against Australia

Buttler had made nine runs off his first ten balls, watching Jason Roy take the attack to Australia’s new-ball bowlers, when he skipped down the pitch and launched Ashton Agar over long-off over his head. That shot made everything click: from then on he was in the zone, leaving his team-mates in the dugout to marvel at his effortless power and wonder if they had ever seen him play so well.
“There was actually a game that we were talking about while he was going bananas out there – back in 2016, where he scored a 46-ball hundred against Pakistan in a 50-over – where very similarly, he just seemed to hit the middle of the bat over and over again,” Eoin Morgan, his captain, said afterwards. “He’s obviously one of the best players in the world and when he comes off like today, it’s very difficult to stop him.”

Three of Buttler’s sixes stuck in the mind: his one-two off Mitchell Starc, sitting deep in his crease and sending consecutive 89mph/144kph length balls into the stands with a snap of the wrists, the first measured at 94 metres and the second 95, which was quickly followed by a straight hit while skipping down the pitch to Adam Zampa, launching him 102 metres into the second tier.

“Every single six that he hit was 15-20 rows back – some 50 rows back,” Liam Livingstone told Sky. “I’ve said it all along: he’s the best hitter of a white ball in the world, and when he gets on a roll like that, there’s no stopping him. That was pretty much the perfect innings, a clinic of white-ball power hitting. It was a pleasure to just sit there and watch a genius at work.”

But perhaps Buttler’s most skilful shot was not one that brought him a boundary. In the penultimate over of the powerplay, Josh Hazlewood landed an inch-perfect yorker, honing in on the base of off stump, but Buttler gave himself some room outside leg stump and used his supple wrists to steer the ball into a gap in the covers. Hazlewood could hardly have bowled a better ball, yet conceded three runs.

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WATCH - Buttler smokes Starc out of the park

WATCH – Buttler smokes Starc out of the park

It was a reminder of why Buttler is so valuable as an opening batter, on a night where it seemed far-fetched to think that there had ever been a debate about his best role. His average opening the batting for England in this format is 54.88, with a strike rate of 149.01 to boost; for all the value that he might add to their middle order, it is rare for a player to combine consistency and quick-scoring to the extent that Buttler has.

“It’s very minimum movement,” Mahela Jayawardene, who first promoted Buttler to open for Mumbai Indians in 2017, told ESPNcricinfo. “He just hits straight. When you have the option of the scoop, the bowlers are always under pressure with which field to go to.

“At the same time, he’s probably one of the best players through the off side as well: he opens himself up and the hands come through. He’s a good player of spin: he has the reverse-sweep, he comes down and hits – we saw the way he controlled Zampa [and how] he never let him settle into that line and length.”

It was an innings that will be remembered as one of the best by an Englishman in T20 World Cups, with perhaps only Alex Hales’ 116 not out against Sri Lanka in 2014 and Joe Root’s 83 off 44 in the Mumbai heist of 2016 rivalling it. Buttler’s final strike rate, 221.87, was his highest in an innings of 30 balls or more across his entire T20 career – for club or country.

“I think he’s certainly one of our players – and there are a few of them – that are at the forefront of changing the game,” Morgan added. “He’s one of the best players in the world but yet he’s still trying to improve his game and get better against every single bowler that he faces.

“It’s not just targeting bowlers that might suit him, it’s every bowler. When you’ve got guys that are at the forefront of change within the game – and positive change, taking the game forward type stuff – it says a lot about the guy.”

This was the night that Buttler arrived at the T20 World Cup and announced his intentions for the rest of the tournament. A similar knock in a semi-final or final might just confirm his status as England’s greatest white-ball batter.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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Marnus Labuschagne eager for James Anderson duel with 'target on the back'

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Australia’s No. 3 is one of the few players who will enter the Ashes with substantial cricket under his belt



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India vs NZ, 2nd Test

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Tom Latham will lead New Zealand

Rahane is out due to a minor left hamstring strain he picked up while fielding on the final day of the Kanpur Test. Jadeja’s is a right forearm injury that required scans which revealed swelling. “He has been advised rest,” stated a BCCI release.

Ishant, meanwhile, dislocated his left little finger on the final day in Kanpur, leaving the door open for Mohammed Siraj‘s return. Siraj had himself sustained a finger injury during the T20I series, but has now been deemed fit.
For Williamson, it’s the recurrence of an old left-elbow problem that has troubled him for much of the year. Coach Gary Stead confirmed the injury had flared up during the first Test and with it failing to improve in the days following the match, the call was made to rule him out. In his absence. Tom Latham will lead the side.

“It’s been a really tough time for Kane having to deal with such a persistent injury,” Stead said. “While we’ve been able to manage the injury through the year and the T20 World Cup, the shift to Test cricket and the increased batting loading has re-aggravated his elbow.

“Ultimately the injury is still not right and while he got through the Kanpur Test, it was clear playing in the second Test wasn’t an option.”

Meanwhile, the absence of Rahane and Jadeja could leave India’s team management contemplate a sixth batting option. If they go down this route, it could mean a debut for KS Bharat or Suryakumar Yadav at his home ground. Wriddhiman Saha was ruled fit by Virat Kohli a day before the match.



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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs West Indies 2nd Test 2021/22

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Ninth-wicket partnership of 107 with Embuldeniya hurts West Indies and their hopes of victory in Galle

Sri Lanka 328 for 8 (Dhananjaya 153*, Embuldeniya 25*, Permaul 3-100, Chase 2-82) and 204 lead West Indies 253 by 279 runs

Dhananjaya de Silva came to the crease with Sri Lanka only 23 runs ahead, with three wickets down, and their most experienced batter injured an unable to play normally. By the time his work ended on day four, Sri Lanka were 279 runs ahead, with two wickets still in hand, in firm control.
De Silva, in sublime touch for much of this knock, was 153 not out off 259 balls by stumps, put on 78 alongside Pathum Nissanka to rescue Sri Lanka from immediate peril, and made 51 with Ramesh Mendis during a second session in which West Indies’ spinners made a four-wicket charge, but it was with No. 10 Lasith Embuldeniya with whom he produced the most consequential and perhaps match-defining partnership – an as-yet unbeaten association of 107 runs, during which he completed his eighth Test century, and breezed past 150, plundering 73 runs off 98 balls from a tiring attack.
He was dropped twice – both times off the bowling of Veerasammy Permaul. On 5, wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva could not hold on to a big edge, though this was an incredibly difficult chance, the ball traveling quickly and hitting only the tips of his gloves. The opportunity West Indies will rue more came when de Silva was on 116 and attempted a slog sweep with the field spread. Permaul got himself under the swirling top edge as he ran toward the sight screen, but ultimately could not wrap his fingers around the ball. If he’d caught that, Sri Lanka would have been nine down with a lead of 218. It’s possible West Indies would already have been batting by now, chasing a difficult but not outlandish target.

The earliest stretch of the de Silva-Embuldeniya stand had been tense. Embuldeniya had come in with Sri Lanka only 179 ahead, and with Permaul having taken two wickets in quick succession with the second new ball. De Silva was batting on 80, and so the hundred was in sight as well. But the pair settled into a rhythm – de Silva farming the strike to give Embuldeniya only the last two or three balls an over, where possible. Though de Silva didn’t always attempt to hit boundaries early in those overs, largely because Kraigg Brathwaite had positioned fielders on the rope.

Embuldeniya scratched his way through that period, facing 20 balls before de Silva was able to complete the century. After that, de Silva moved up the gears. He hit Roston Chase behind point for four soon after getting to a hundred, then slammed him over long-on two balls later. The field spread back to him, he ran hard twos, and when Brathwaite brought the seamers back, attacked them as well. Having got to his hundred off his 189th delivery, he added the next 50 off 65.

Embuldeniya played an unambitious supporting hand, all the way up to stumps. He faced 110 balls for his 25. He did not hit a single boundary, but was largely good in defence. West Indies, through this period, seemed ragged and short of ideas. Brathwaite bowled a strange spell in which he occasionally tossed the ball up almost comically high.

West Indies will be kicking themselves for letting the situation slip, after having surged through the middle session, and having kept the opposition in check even before lunch. Sri Lanka had begun the day still three runs in arrears, and with two inexperienced batters at the crease. Permaul got one to bite to take Charith Asalanka’s inside edge, which popped up off the pad to short leg, in the first hour of play. And although Nissanka completed his third fifty of the series in the company of de SIlva, he was out the ball before lunch too – lbw to Chase.

Chase struck again in the afternoon, pocketing a return catch off Dinesh Chandimal, before Brathwaite was the beneficiary of the only wicket Sri Lanka truly threw away in the day – Mendis holing out at deep midwicket the over before the second new ball was due. Permaul removed Suranga Lakmal and Angelo Mathews cheaply with that new ball. He finished the day on 3 for 100 – West Indies’ best analysis.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf



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