Jos Buttler has admitted that even he has been pleasantly surprised by his smooth transition back into Test cricket.
Buttler hadn’t played a first-class game since September and hadn’t scored a first-class half-century since December 2016 when he was somewhat surprisingly recalled to England’s Test team ahead of the series against Pakistan.
But he responded with half-centuries at Lord’s and Headingley, finishing the series as the highest run-scorer on either side and winning the man of the match award in Leeds for an innings of 80 not out in a low-scoring game.
While Buttler had come into the Test series in fine form – his final five innings in the IPL season were 67, 51, 82, 95*, 94* and 39 – he concedes he was as unsure as anyone how easily he would manage the switch between formats. But he feels minimising the extent of the changes between formats in his own head has been key to his success.
“I think, in a way, it has been a bit of a surprise,” Buttler said. “Up until now it was unheard of in England to pick someone who hasn’t been banging the door down in red-ball cricket. Or even playing it. It’s a new way of selecting someone and I don’t think anyone knew how I was going to do or play.
“So it’s really satisfying to know I can make that switch between formats.
“Maybe in the past I made more of that switch than there I needed to, really. The basics of the game are similar. As long as you can control the mental aspect of it, the actual technique and things look after themselves.”
While there has been much talk of the changes to the Australian squad – both in personnel and approach – that England will meet in the Royal London One-Day series starting next week, Buttler is expecting them to be as tough and aggressive as ever.
“Maybe verbally they may be less aggressive, but I don’t think tactically or cricket-wise: they’ll still be an aggressive side in that sense,” Buttler said. “I was just starting out at Somerset when the new Australia coach, Justin Langer, was the captain there.
“He’s obviously a really successful coach in Australia and some of the mantras he lives by I saw a little bit at Somerset. They will be a highly-organised, disciplined, competitive team with a hard-nosed edge. They will still have that side.
“Everyone determines the word ‘sledging’ differently. People always say ‘you know where the line is’ but whose line is it? It’s a hard area to judge.
“Is it personal abuse? You wouldn’t walk down the street and abuse a postman for not delivering the letters in the right way. But at the same time in professional sport, if you’re making someone in the middle think about something else and not 100 percent focussed on the ball coming – Steve Waugh called it mental disintegration – then you’re gaining an advantage.
“It’s international cricket, it’s going to be hard and competitive so I think they are coming as well with a bit of a point to prove and they’ll want to put that [the ball-tampering scandal] behind them and play cricket again. So I expect a really tough series.”
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