The Hundred 2022 – Jos Buttler’s outfield test drive underlines his appetite for experimentation

If one of the drawbacks of the start of the second season of The Hundred is the absence of English stars such as Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, then Friday at Emirates Old Trafford was a boost to competition that was needed.

The cheers for Jos Buttler as he walked to the crease to kick off this game after choosing to bat first to win the toss was as cheap and reliable as you could get. This format may be for those who don’t know, but not many people are unaware of Buttler, English cricket’s greatest white ball talent and now captain of that code.

Even though Manchester Originals lost by six wickets with as many balls left as Northern Superchargers chased a goal of 162, the interest in Buttler was arguably the closest the Hundred will come to finding that vital middle of the Venn diagram among newbies and traditionalists.

His first act was to get 59 out of 41 deliveries to get the game going, including a huge six in the second row at the Brian Statham End. Then he took focus as captain as he lined up his bowlers and fielders to defend their 161 for 4. And it was the latter, even in vain, that hinted at a possible new era in the world beyond the black, purple and green one.

After taking wicket in each of the 26 matches, he led England’s limited-overs teams, including 12 times in 25 days last month as Eoin Morgan’s permanent replacement. outfield.

“I’m curious if it feels different,” he revealed at the end of the match. “If I feel like there are benefits, or if not. I’d rather look for the answer than just keep going and think, ‘oh, I wonder what it feels like to be halfway there’ or something. I’m just open-minded.”

“I’ve also had a lot of captaincy and wicket keeping, which I definitely think there are a lot of benefits to that.”

He went on to say he would be amenable to someone else holding wicket for England instead, provided he decides his best leadership takes place out in the open rather than behind the stumps. Ultimately, it will be defined by feel: “I think it’s important that I feel comfortable with what I’m doing.”

So, how did he do it? Well, he certainly has his ten thousand steps in for the day. Beyond the usual mid-on and mid-off, he put himself in the deep end – midwicket, long-on – after the power play, recognizing himself as one of the better outfield players: quick on the ground, good hands and with a very on – keeper-like cannon of one arm. It made chats with the bowlers just that little bit more difficult. On a number of occasions he ran in from the gate to offer either his ear or words of advice.

When Ashton Turner was swept backwards by Michael Pepper, Buttler was already in from the leg-side boundary before the ball was knocked back, inquiring about a possible shift in the field. The next delivery, Pepper was caught not hooked up well enough on an inside-out shot over cover. Chance? No doubt, but the optics were quite good.

“I don’t quite understand why spinners aren’t allowed to bowl at the end of an innings. A seamer can hit for 20 or 25, so a spinner can bowl at that stage of the game too.”

Buttler trusted his spinners to death with mixed results

Then there was the moment after the 49th Superchargers chase, when he screamed from long to long, where Andre Russell was lost in his own thoughts between Matt Parkinson’s deliveries. After getting his attention, he gave him the universal sign to warm up—rolling both shoulders like an optimistic chicken getting ready to fly—before pointing to the top. It was Dre Russ’ turn and, two balls after he reached his half-century, Adam Lyth went out, caught by Sean Abbott in deep cover.

“I enjoyed it,” Buttler said of the overall experience. “I’ve played a lot in my career. The IPL just left, I played the whole tournament. Personally, I’m just intrigued to see how I feel as captain.

“It doesn’t mean I think it’s better or worse, I just feel like it’s the time to try it and see how I find it. Is there any benefit to being in the field? to have that image in the wicket? I’m just going to try it the whole tournament. It’s something I just wanted to see. And personally, does it affect my batting, or something like that. I’m just trying.”

Importantly, he tried more than just free his legs from the relentless squatting. In an effort to break a stance between David Willey and Harry Brook, he decided to flip from balls 80 to 90. The first five did the trick, as Parkinson removed Willey to break the partnership on 41 out of 29 before allowing five of the remaining four deliveries in his set.

But with 30 required from the last 15, Tom Hartley’s orthodox left arm was taken by Brook for 18 to confirm a Superchargers win. While it was undoubtedly a bold call to go for spin at the time, it was another aspect Buttler was eager to explore. Because, from his point of view, why not?

“It’s actually something I’m quite intrigued by: I don’t quite understand why spinners aren’t allowed to bowl at the end of an innings. A seamer can be hit for 20 or 25, so a spinner can be in that phase of the game too. Especially here at Old Trafford, when the wicket is used it’s not easy to attack at the end spin.

“Maybe with a little dew, it made it a little trickier for them [the spinners]. But I am confident that anyone can bowl at any stage of the game. Especially someone like Parkinson can make wickets at that stage of the game. Adil Rashid has played such a role for England in the past. I think it’s something spinners can do.”

It’s a refreshing approach in many ways. One of the annoyances of Twenty20 competitions around the world is a lack of access to their own top talent, both literally and figuratively. Often those who do participate in their own competitions mail in performances every so often because there is no great danger to their output.

So to see Buttler, reputation assured, status secure, mixing entertainment with experimentation was something new. With just four wins in 12 under his full-time tenure as England captain to date, it has become easy to wonder whether it was the right decision to give him the responsibility of leadership. He does everything he can to prove that it was so.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.