How do you bowl to Jos Buttler? That was the question put to Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s head coach, after his team found themselves on the wrong end of a Buttler onslaught. Buttler showed no mercy as he belted 110 runs from 55 balls, and still ended up unbeaten.
“I’m not sure,” conceded Arthur. “I just asked the bowlers that. And they didn’t give me an answer, either. We’ll sit down and analyse it over the next day or two. I don’t think we’re going to stop him; we’ve got to try to get him out.”
Buttler punished everything that came his way as he raced to a 50-ball ton, England men’s second-fastest ODI century. It is an effort surpassed only by Buttler himself, whose 46-ball century against the same opposition in 2015 remains the record.
Eoin Morgan, who watched much of Buttler’s innings from the other end during a 162-ball partnership, agreed. “I was in prime position to see the whole innings and his freakish knocks seem to be getting closer and closer together, so that’s a good sign for us moving forward.
“He seems to have a gear that not many of us have. I certainly don’t have it, but it’s great to watch. He always seem to time his run really well, regardless of what time he comes in, he always seems to have enough balls to go on and bang a 50-ball hundred.
“He was brilliant and the difference in the two teams,” said Morgan, who, despite the modesty, when combined with Buttler forms easily the most destructive pairing in ODI cricket. According to CricViz, when Buttler and Morgan are in the middle, they score at 8.50 runs per over, figures which far exceed any other duo to have faced more than 300 balls since the 2015 World Cup.
On a “belting” wicket the run-out also proved a stern, and welcome, challenge for England’s fast bowling attack. With each seamer straining not to be the one left out in place of Jofra Archer, who was rested today in a seeming nod to his inevitable inclusion when England’s final World Cup squad is announced on 21 May, Morgan appeared satisfied at his charges’ reaction.
“I think they are all pushing each other,” said Morgan. “I thought that [of] all of the bowlers, including Dave [Willey], who were put under the pump. When we couldn’t take wickets throughout that 30-over period, it was brilliant, because they reacted really well.”
What today’s performance doesn’t do is make that final selection decision any easier. For the one who does miss out, however, Morgan has words of reassurance. “I still believe that they might have a role to play,” insisted England’s captain. “We get guys injured, particularly bowlers. Whoever misses out on the [final] 15, there’s a chance we’ll have an injury – it’s a long tournament.”
• A version of this article was originally printed in The Telegraph on 3 June 2019.