Buttler’s remarkable innings – featuring five fours, five sixes and innumerable bewildered head-shakes from his team-mates in the dugout – enabled England to cruise to victory with 50 balls to spare, and cement their standing at the top of Group 1 with their third crushing win in a row. It was an opportunity for Buttler to reaffirm the all-guns-blazing mentality that has transformed England into the pre-eminent white-ball team of the era, and lay down a marker for the rest of the tournament.
“It was a fantastic team performance,” Buttler said, after a bowling display led by Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan had limited Australia to a sub-par total of 125. “Early wickets in the powerplay really set us on our way and it was great fun to chase those runs down.
“We didn’t have any scoreboard pressure. ‘Just keep imposing ourselves on the opposition’ is the way we’ve championed trying to play. We don’t try and play it safe. So if we talk that way, we have to go out and play that way as well.”
To that end, Buttler credited his opening partner, Jason Roy, for setting England’s agenda, as he galloped to the pitch of his first ball from Josh Hazlewood, and slammed him through wide long-on for four – an important statement shot given Hazlewood’s ability to drum out an awkward length. Roy then repeated the dose with a big six in Pat Cummins’ first over, and when England reached 48 for 0 after five overs, Buttler knew it was time to put the hammer down.
Jayawardene: Batting depth allows Buttler, Roy to go hard in the powerplay
“I think you get quite inspired by Jason at the other end when he is running down first ball against Hazlewood and running down against Cummins,” he said. “These are top bowlers and the way he can impose himself inspires at the other end. When you get to the last over of the powerplay none down, it felt like an over to really throw caution to the wind and just go for it.
“Once you get in that hitting mode, it is [about] just allowing yourself to keep going. Sometimes you think ‘I’ll rein it back in a little bit’, but then you catch yourself half-hearted. So especially with the position we were in, in the game, it was more ‘I’m just gonna keep going’. And keep trying to take advantage of being in a good zone.”
As Buttler’s innings progressed, so the shots became more outrageous – a brace of swings through the line for six off Mitchell Starc were followed by another heave over long-off as he failed to reach the pitch of an Adam Zampa legbreak, but trusted his eye to punish the ball high into the stands.
“I think we’re an incredibly fit team. That gives us another dimension, especially on fields like this where there are bigger gaps at times and you can push twos. It’s another area that we can push to try and play at the level we want to play”
“The mental side of things is something I try to work on a lot,” he said. “Some of the practice wickets have been a bit tricky but [on Friday] I managed to have some great practice. It’s nice to put your hands through a few again, have some fun and freedom.
“If you practise it, the confidence stays. Your adrenaline is going but you’re trying to remain quite level in your brain and relaxed in the top half. When guys are bowling fast, you have that level of adrenaline.”
Nor was there any respite for Australia in England’s running between the wickets. Buttler twice managed to turn pinpoint yorkers into threes with deft wristwork, including a firm drive off Hazlewood to the edge of the cover boundary, and his understanding with Roy was instrumental in keeping the score ticking throughout the powerplay.
“We want to put the opposition under pressure in all facets of the game with bat, ball, in the field and the way we run as well,” Buttler said. “I think we’re an incredibly fit team. That gives us another dimension, especially on fields like this where there are bigger gaps at times and you can push twos. It’s another area that we can push to try and play at the level we want to play.”
Though Buttler is familiar with the Dubai stadium through his time in the IPL, this campaign is his first visit to the venue with England since the 2015-16 series against Pakistan, where he cracked a 46-ball century in the fourth ODI, England’s fastest of all time.
“That’s obviously a while ago now but every time you come and play here, there are obviously great memories,” he said. “We were in the same dressing-room as well on that day. It just has a nice feel about it, remembering that sort of day. So absolutely that gives you confidence to know you are coming back to a ground where you have probably played your best innings at.”
With three comprehensive wins from three, Buttler admitted that England could not be better placed in their push for a semi-final berth. And though they have had the advantage of chasing in each of their three games to date, he did not feel that the conditions – in particular the onset of dew in the second innings – had played an undue part in their success.
“The format doesn’t allow much room for error so to be three from three – including wins against West Indies and Australia as well, no disrespect to Bangladesh – and to play as convincingly as we have has been awesome,” he said. “The games we have played, we’ve pegged back the opposition really early. We have restricted teams to under-par scores, so I wouldn’t say we’ve seen big benefits of batting second.
“As the tournament goes on and the wickets become more tired, maybe the advantage will swap to batting first,” he added. “That is one challenge we are going to have to work out as a side. If we lose the toss or we choose to bat first, how are we going to approach our innings to get to a score that we think is defendable.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
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Mithali Raj – We have had ‘good preparation’ for 2022 World Cup by playing SA, England, Australia this year
“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good,” she says
India will play World Cup hosts New Zealand for five ODIs before the World Cup in March-April.
“We have played three best teams since March and it has given us good preparation,” Raj said after a partnership between KFC and Indian Deaf Cricket Association in Delhi on Wednesday. “Players have played domestic cricket and also in the Women’s Big Bash so they are getting game time which is the most important thing.
“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good.”
India, who were unable to post 250-plus scores regularly earlier, did that twice in the Australia series and chased down 265 in the final ODI.
India’s middle-order batting needs improvement but Raj said all departments must fire as a unit if they are to win the World Cup.
“We bat as a unit so you can’t pinpoint one area,” she said. “There are times when the top order failed and the others performed. As a unit if we look to post a good total then it will help. If we focus on one area like middle order then it becomes too much of a burden for that particular slot.”
India finished runners-up in the 2017 World Cup in England when not many expected them to but expectations will be higher this time.
“There were not enough expectations back then,” Raj said. “Now in 2021, players have got experience and got a lot of exposure with the T20 leagues. Overall we have young players but they have got enough exposure. It is just of matter of gelling well as a team.
“Every match will be different there. The quicker we read our opponents the better it will be for us.”
The Ashes 2021-22 – Michael Vaughan stood down from BT Sport Ashes coverage after Azeem Rafiq allegations
Channel to adopt a “hybrid” approach with Vaughan’s stints on Fox Sports to be overlaid
Vaughan, 47, was last week stood down from BBC Test Match Special’s coverage for “editorial” reasons, following allegations from Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire cricketer, that he had said “there are too many of you lot” following the selection of four players of Asian heritage in a county fixture in 2009.
However, BT Sport – who are due to take the Fox Sports feed after choosing not to send a bespoke commentary team to Australia – announced on Tuesday that they will be taking a “hybrid” approach to their coverage, with Vaughan’s on-air stints to be overlaid with studio analysis.
“As a result of Covid and travel restrictions BT Sport had made the decision to take our commentary feed from the Australian host broadcaster,” the channel said in a statement. “The recent report presented to UK Parliament uncovering institutional racism within cricket and specifically Yorkshire County Cricket Club is extremely disappointing and a concern for all.
“Given these recent events and the controversy with the situation we have taken the decision that including Michael Vaughan within our Ashes coverage would not be editorially appropriate or fit with BT Sport’s values. We are still finalising plans but we are assessing the option of taking a hybrid approach, using Fox commentary where possible with the aim of putting our own commentary team in place if necessary.”
Vaughan’s troubled build-up to the series continued on Tuesday, when he announced on Twitter that his arrival in Australia had been delayed by a week due to a positive Covid test. “[It] is frustrating,” he wrote. “But at least I’ll avoid the rain in Brisbane for a few days!”
However, his hopes of being retained by the BBC after the Ashes have received a boost, after the corporation confirmed that they had been in “regular contact” with Vaughan since his suspension, and had held “positive conversations with him in recent days”.
“Our contributors are required to talk about relevant issues, so Michael’s involvement in a story of such significance means it’s not possible for him to be part of our Ashes coverage or wider cricket coverage at the moment,” the statement added. “We’re pleased with how our conversations are going and expect to work with Michael again in the future. He remains on contract to the BBC.”
The BBC’s stance was criticised this week by his former England team-mate Monty Panesar, who wrote in a column in the Daily Telegraph: “This feels deeply unethical — a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process being undertaken.”
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