Buttler blitz sparks late England resurgence
After a lean series with the bat, the aggressive nature of Jos Buttler shone through to keep England afloat on day one at The Oval
Sam Ferris at The Oval
13 September 2019, 11:18 AM AEST
A glimpse of Jos Buttler’s destructive best has kept his side in the fifth Ashes Test, despite the dynamic England batter conceding he has endured a difficult series to date.
Buttler crunched three sixes into the packed stands at The Oval as part of a series-best 64 not out to lift England to 8-271 at stumps having been sent in to bat by Australia captain Tim Paine.
England were looking at a sub-250 score after being reduced to 8-226 in the 71st over before Buttler took the attack to the Australians, hitting nine boundaries in an unbeaten 45-run ninth-wicket partnership with crowd favourite Jack Leach.
The right-hander hit fast bowler Josh Hazlewood for all three of his sixes; the first two in consecutive balls straight down the ground, which were followed four overs later by a furious swat over deep square-leg to bring up his half-century from 60 balls.
Buttler farmed the strike with aplomb as he went into T20 mode in the final hour of play to put some starch into England's first innings.
"The new ball was about 10 or 12 overs away and I thought that would be the hardest time to try to attack," Buttler said when asked when he decided to up the ante.
"With the bowlers having bowled a lot it felt like the best time to score some runs and find a bit more enjoyment in my batting as well.
"I just tried to look at the scoreboard and think what the best way was for us to go forward."
Buttler's blitz comes at the end of torrid series playing as a specialist batter.
The 29-year-old averaged 16.25 coming into the fifth Test, unable to repel Australia's powerful all-round pace attack as he moved up and down England's misfiring middle order.
He showed signs of a return to form with scores of 41 and 34 in Manchester, but says he has had to fight his way through a lean trot after entering the Ashes having starred in England's World Cup triumph.
"I've just found it hard all series," Buttler said.
"They have an excellent attack, I just don't think I've played very well. I haven't really got in. The period at the start of your innings is always tough and against a very good attack you have to be on it straight away, and they challenge you straight away.
“I haven't quite been good enough to get through those periods. In the last couple of games I've tried to fight as hard as I could.
"I don't necessarily feel great at the crease but I'm just trying to scrap my way through it."
One of the possible reasons cited for Buttler's lean returns in the Ashes has been fatigue.
In England's one-day team, Buttler takes the gloves and plays a crucial role in the middle order before handing the wicketkeeping duties to Jonny Bairstow in Test cricket to focus on playing as a specialist batter.
While it would be perfectly reasonable for Buttler to feel tired after an intense, stressful and emotionally draining summer, even he was unsure how he was feeling at certain stages of the campaign.
"It's been a big test of everything this summer, both mentally and physically," he said.
"Any game against Australia is a massive game and you find something within yourself to do it for your team.
"The more you can remind yourself of that, the more you can find energy to do that.
"It's been a long summer but at the same time, with people talking a lot about that (fatigue), you can start to believe it.
"You might not feel that tired or that jaded but you hear it bandied around a lot as a reason why you might not be playing that well and you start to believe it.
"It's important to understand if you are tired and jaded, how you manage your energy, but if you're not then don't act like you are.
"Try to be very honest about how you feel."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: Australia won by 185 runs at Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval