Had we won yesterday’s game at Lord’s, I think people would be hailing Jos Buttler’s century as the finest ODI innings ever played by an Englishman.
I don’t care that Buttler didn’t get us over the line. In my eyes, it was still the best innings I’ve seen by a man representing England in 50 over cricket.
The nearest rival I can think of is Kevin Pietersen’s debut ton in South Africa. That was a truly special innings in the circumstances (remember the crowd turning their backs on him?) but for sheer creativity I think Buttler’s knock was better.
To score 121 off 74 balls against a good attack was breath-taking. Up to that point, all England’s batsmen had struggled to score quickly. Mendis and Co were on top and looked like clear winners.
The fact that Buttler got us so close to victory was incredible. What a shame he couldn’t quite finish the job – denied by sluggish batting at the other end and some brilliant yorkers by the slinger.
What struck me about Jos’ innings was not only his quick hands and flexible wrists (which generate unfathomable power through pure timing) but his ice-cool temperament and the placement of his shots:
I lost count of the number of times what looked like a regulation single turned into a two because the placement between Sri Lanka’s boundary riders was inch perfect.
I might be overdoing the hyperbole a little here, but I was genuinely gobsmacked at times. This lad can play.
The question, I suppose, is when he’ll get into the test side. People on twitter were attributing his likely absence from the first test squad to the selectors fear of unorthodoxy. I can’t agree with that. It’s his keeping that’s the problem.
If it was down to batting ability, and the potential to change games from number seven, I think Buttler would definitely get the nod if Prior is ruled out through injury. However, Jos’ keeping is still a work in progress.
Remember how much stick Bairstow got during the winter? Well, Buttler’s keeping isn’t yet as good as Bairstow’s. That’s the problem.
In other news – and I’m afraid we can’t let this go unmentioned (especially as Sky deliberately ignored the issue yesterday) – Paul Downton was absolutely humiliated on Friday evening when he was forced to apologise for breaking the confidentiality agreement put in place when KP was sacked.
Obviously, the news made a lot of people quite happy. The ECB have long briefed against Pietersen, and this time it looks like they went too far.
The main concern, from where I’m standing, is that the episode makes Downton seem utterly incompetent and naive. Is this the kind of bloke we really want running English cricket?
Paul Downton has bungled this whole affair and he’s rightly getting his comeuppance. I will never understand why, at the very outset, the ECB didn’t just argue that Pietersen was dropped for cricketing reasons.
I for one always expected Pietersen’s batting to go downhill pretty rapidly when he reached his mid-thirties. His technique isn’t particularly sound (remarkably he lacks any kind of back foot game) and his modus operandi throughout his career has been to lunge down the pitch to bowlers of all kinds, no matter how fast, and take the game to them.
When you look at side-on pitch maps, KP hits the ball about about a yard closer to the bowler than any of his teammates. That’s one whole yard less time to react. The game’s best ever batsmen predominantly played the ball late.
Pietersen is a player who relies on his astonishing eye to be successful. Once his eyes start to decline (even by one to two percent) he will struggle. Judging by his performances over the last twelve months (particularly in the IPL) perhaps that time has come?
Basically, what I’m saying is that there were very legitimate cricketing reasons to move on from Pietersen. I personally think he had a year or two left in the tank, but I don’t think he would have been the force he once was.
Had Downton simply argued that Pietersen was somewhat in decline, and they wanted to pick younger guys who would be improving (rather than regressing) at the time of the 2015 Ashes, there would be no need for confidentiality agreements, a fraction of the ill feeling, and England could always recall KP if the team struggled and public opinion demanded it. But when did common sense ever reign at the ECB?
Rather than thinking things through the ECB got themselves into a pickle, made themselves look devious and underhand, fell out with the public, and have now incurred the wrath of Pietersen’s lawyers – hence this hasty, excruciating, apology.
What a shower.