PAUL NEWMAN: England captain Jos Buttler looked nothing like his old self in ODI defeat by West Indies… his out of character, timid contribution brought back painful memories of the World Cup
- England lost by four wickets in the opening one-day international in Antigua
- Shai Hope unbeaten century inspired West Indies to a dramatic four-wicket win
- Jos Buttler should consider himself to be fortunate after a disastrous World Cup
It may have been Antigua rather than Ahmedabad but Jos Buttler still looked nothing like his old self in England’s opening defeat of their new era as he scratched around for 13 balls before gloving a reverse sweep to slip.
The first one-day international of what has become a new white-ball beginning after England’s World Cup capitulation was a case of more of the same for a captain who insisted before this game that his leadership would not be defined by two shocking months in India.
Fact is, there was a strong case for Buttler to stand down after the World Cup and concentrate on batting that made him the greatest white-ball talent in England’s history.
After all, England were so bad in India that Buttler and coach Matthew Mott should consider themselves fortunate that both lived to fight another white-ball day, starting with a tour of the Caribbean that has suddenly assumed far greater importance than expected.
It is understandable Buttler did not want to go out on such a low as captain, particularly as he only has to get through until June before defending the Twenty20 World Cup title England won in his first tournament in charge last year.
Jos Buttler still looked nothing like his old self in England’s opening defeat against West Indies
It is understandable Buttler did not want to go out on such a low as captain after the World Cup
But his out of character, timid contribution of just three to England’s 325 brought back painful recent memories of a World Cup that, statistically, was even worse than the watershed tournament of 2015 that led to their white-ball revolution in the first place.
In truth, this was still not the aggressive, no fear, dynamic batting that took England under Eoin Morgan from rock bottom to World Cup winners in 2019 and the dominant white-ball force in international cricket for close to a decade.
The start certainly was. There were very much echoes of the way Jason Roy and Alex Hales, and then Jonny Bairstow, launched that new era eight years ago in the way Phil Salt and Will Jacks went about England’s innings after Buttler won the toss yesterday.
It is perhaps no coincidence that neither was in India but they carried on where they left off against Ireland at the end of last summer and set off in such an explosive manner that a recuperative total of 400 looked the very least of England’s ambitions.
And it was significant England went for this pairing rather than the Test opening partnership of Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett that followed them in the order in Antigua in the absence of the rested Joe Root and Bairstow.
Investment has to be made in Salt and Jacks right up until the next World Cup and certainly in the 10 remaining one-day internationals that represent England’s only 50-over fixtures ahead of the Champions Trophy in 2025.
Both are desperately unlucky not to have been among the 29 players handed England central-contracts by Rob Key ahead of the World Cup but both have huge futures in this team, in the one-day side and the T20 one that will defend the short-form crown.
Investment has to be made in Phil Salt (L) and Will Jacks (R) right up until the next World Cup
Otherwise England’s batting was unconvincing and still largely lacking in the bravery and conviction that became second nature under Morgan and in the early days of Buttler’s captaincy before it all came crashing down in such spectacular fashion.
It was interesting to hear Sir Alastair Cook saying in the TNT Sports studio on Sunday that his England captaincy only really came into its own after the toxic 5-0 Ashes defeat in 2013-14. Before then, Cook said, he was merely carrying on Sir Andrew Strauss’s work.
There was nothing like the divisions in the camp in India that marred Cook’s tour of Australia 10 years ago but Buttler is carrying on now after a similar low.
And England’s total on Sunday was put in perspective by Shai Hope as he inspired West Indies to a dramatic four-wicket victory with seven balls to spare with an unbeaten century. Clearly, there is much work still to do for the captain yet.
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