Stand-in captain says, “T20 has given people probably a greater understanding of risk and reward” in ODIs
England will go into the final match of their tour of India hopeful of claiming the ODI series 2-1 but already confident that exposure to local conditions will enhance their chances of success at this year’s showpiece white-ball event, the 2021 T20 World Cup.
Jos Buttler, standing in for the injured Eoin Morgan as England captain, said that the side took great pride from the way they had stuck to their philosophy of aggression in levelling the series in Pune on Friday, and pointed to the strength in depth that had enabled them to pull off a chase of 337 without the services of two of their best ODI batsmen, in Morgan and the rested Joe Root.
With all limited-overs performances being looked at through the lens of the T20 World Cup, to be held in India in October and November, the performances of Liam Livingstone, who struck a composed 27 off 21 balls on debut to help seal victory, and Reece Topley, whose temperament and variations stood out in only his second ODI since 2016, added to the sense of healthy competition in England’s ranks.
England were defeated 3-2 in the T20I series, having been 2-1 up, but have held their own against India across the white-ball leg of their tour.
“The T20s were a great – I don’t want to say exercise – but a fantastic series for learning about playing in this part of the world as a side, with the T20 World Cup looming in the near future,” Buttler said. “I know Eoin and Chris Silverwood talked about building that pool of players who are exposed to international cricket and being exposed to playing against India in India is as hard as it gets in international cricket.
“Lots of guys have had opportunities. It was great to see Liam Livingstone make his debut yesterday, brilliant to see Reece Topley to come back in and bowl so well. It’s fantastic for these guys to get exposure and come in and perform in the fashion that we like to play as a side. It’s great to see someone like Liam to fully commit to his way and it’s great to see someone do that on debut.”
Another plus has been the form of Jonny Bairstow, who reinforced his credentials as one of the best limited-overs batsmen in the game with an 11th ODI hundred to set up England’s successful chase in the second game. Bairstow’s last seven ODI innings have seen him rack up scores of 82, 4, 84, 0, 112, 94 and 124, giving him an average of 52.41 and strike rate of 108.89 since converting to opener in 2017.
His latest effort in Pune also elevated Bairstow to fourth among England’s century-makers in the format, leaving him to suggest one of his aims was to top the list.
“Jonny has been in unbelievable form for the last few years for us,” Buttler said. “He has been one of the world’s leading batsmen in ODI cricket and it’s been amazing to watch. If those numbers drive him on, that’s fantastic. For us as a side, we all want to push boundaries of what we are all capable of as a team and, of course, individuals want to do that as well.
“That’s fantastic, the form Jonny is in, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t go on and break all those records. If you look at his numbers since becoming an opening batsman in ODI cricket, it is quite extraordinary, the averages and the strike rate he manages to score at, it’s fantastic. It’s brilliant to have him in our side and we love watching him play.
“He’s our leading player really. It’s just been brilliant to watch the consistency he shows to play in the fashion he does, which is what makes it so impressive. It’s very intimidating to bowl at. I know having played against Jonny in the IPL and in the bowlers meeting [people] saying ‘What should we bowl to this guy?’ [There are] not too many answers to be honest. He’s hugely appreciated within our side and I think everyone knows really just what special player he is.”
Amid debate about India’s mode of playing the ODI game, which contrasts with the all-out-attack methods that have seen England secure a World Cup and the ICC’s No. 1 ranking, Buttler echoed the suggestion of Morgan that white-ball cricket is “always on an upward slant” and said the influence of T20 had changed the players’ approach to risk versus reward.
“I think the two games are probably as close as they’ve ever been,” he said. “T20 has given people probably a greater understanding of risk and reward, and that’s sort of coming into the 50-over game, especially for us, the six-hitting capability and boundary-hitting capability. The guys’ attitude to risk is probably quite different compared to how it was a number of years ago and I think T20 has sort of made people realise that they can operate at a level above what they used to be able to do for longer periods of time so bringing that into 50-over cricket.
“When the conditions suit it’s certainly made for some high-scoring games, but I think one of the beauties of 50-over cricket – go back to the World Cup in 2019, we probably expected to see higher scoring games that we did. So, there are certain times when the game does differ and move further away from T20. But I’d say they are certainly closer aligned than they probably ever have been.”
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick