Eoin Morgan confirms that he dislocated a finger, not that it stopped him batting. Or fielding, apart from one over. Morgan can’t fault “any facet” of England’s performance, which may be a relief to Tom Banton. He gives credit to Jofra, who “set the tone”, as well as to Buttler.
You might think the argument over Buttler’s place in the order was now settled, but Morgan doesn’t sound so sure. “We’ll look at the options.” I think he’s right about that. If Banton is to stay in the team, he has to open; at No.4, he’s not even close to Joe Root. But Jason Roy may be fit again soon to keep both of them out.
Thanks for your company, your emails and your bulletins from club cricket. I’m back on Friday for the 50-over Ashes; the OBO is back on Tuesday to see if Australia can grab a consolation victory. They don’t deserve to be 2-0 down.
That 77 not out is Buttler’s career-best in T20 internationals, to go with his Test-best 152 against Pakistan. His average as a T20i opener is now a Malan-like 51. His innings was about more than stats, though. On a tricky wicket, on which nobody else passed 42, he played safe enough to bat through, and didn’t mind being second fiddle to Malan for a bit, yet he still rocked along at a strike rate of 142. If he hadn’t already been one of Wisden’s Five Cricketer of the Year, he would be a sure thing for 2021.
The man of the match is clearly going to be Buttler, but two other players were excellent. Jofra Archer set the tone with a magnificent blend of accuracy, hostility and movement – for the first time in a year, he was the complete fast bowler. And Dawid Malan added yet another feather to his red T20 cap with a commanding 42 off 32 balls.
More from the north. “Any turn?” Anthony Bradley says, echoing my question. “Not sure if the lad got any turn on Boxing Day as I stayed at home with left-over mince pies. Unbelievably he had half a dozen mates to practise with. He is only 14 and they have done this three years on the bounce. The lot of them are utterly bonkers.” You’re not fooling us, Anthony – we can hear the pride in your voice.
A cliff with nobody hanging off it
England did their best to turn a cakewalk into a collapse, but Buttler stood firm. He finished with 77 off 54 balls, using the crease, working the singles, erupting only when he needed to, and timing his reverse sweeps beautifully. There was also a lovely cameo from Moeen Ali, 13 off only six balls. So England won by six wickets, with seven balls to spare. Aaron Finch’s brave decision to give Adam Zampa the penultimate over went horribly wrong – he went for six, four, one, six, and the last over never happened. But spare a thought for the Aussies, who may still be jetlagged.
England win the series! Buttler 77 not out
With six needed off eight balls, Jos Buttler does it in style, dancing down to Zampa and lofting him into the Solent. Opener, finisher, white-ball magician.
Mid-19th over: England 151-4 (Buttler 71, Moeen 12) Buttler, facing Zampa, takes a single. Moeen needs to go big. And he does – a shimmy down the track and a big six over long-off. And then a four! Swished over extra-cover, the shot that Morgan was aiming for. England need seven from the last nine balls.
18th over: England 140-4 (Buttler 70, Moeen 2) This is Agar’s last over. England settle for singles as Moeen gets his eye in, and that’s the end of a fine spell from Agar – two for 27 off his four overs. England need 18 from the last two: could be another cliffhanger.
17th over: England 135-4 (Buttler 67, Moeen 0) Back came Zampa, mullet and all. Morgan contented himself with singles, to hand the strike back to Buttler – who hit one of his signature shots, the uppish cover push, and got it into the gap for four. Morgan joined in the fun with a straight wallop for four. And then he perished. Are England Australia in disguise?
Wicket!! Morgan c Maxwell b Zampa 7 (England 135-4)
Game on! Morgan survives an LBW review, comfortably, but then chips to extra-cover. England need 23 from the last three overs, and they have to get Buttler on strike.
16th over: England 125-3 (Buttler 62, Morgan 2) So there is a wobble, as so often with England. But, as never before, Buttler is threatening to bat through, and be both the opener and the finisher. In a tight corner, this pair are exactly the men England would want out there. Well bowled Agar though – four off the over, and he has two for 22 from three.
Here’s Anthony Bradley, who’s writing almost as much as I am. “Thanks for relaying the ‘bulletins’ – I’ll take ‘our friend in the North’ as a moniker. Just to ask for a shout-out for our U15s who have a Cup semi-final at the theatre of dreams aka The Marshfield tomorrow evening. Declaration of interest: their budding off-spinner is my youngest son Richard, for whom a win will be a reward for outdoor nets on Boxing Day!” Was there any turn?
Wicket! Banton c b Agar 2 (England 122-3)
Oooh! Banton, sweeping, top-edges straight to Cummins at deep square. Game on? Only if Morgan, who was out third ball on Friday, flops again.
15th over: England 121-2 (Buttler 60, Banton 2) Here’s Starc, for his final over and Finch’s last throw of the dice. Buttler decides that discretion is the better part of valour. Tucked up by the extra pace, he still manages a glance for two, among a few dots. Banton gets off the mark with a nice back-foot force for two, and then digs out a yorker. Starc finishes, just like Archer, with one for 25 from his four overs. The difference is that Archer defined the contest.
14th over: England 115-2 (Buttler 58, Banton 0) Buttler flirts with danger too, chipping Agar into the covers, but there’s enough on it to clear the ring. That’s another fifty for Buttler in what’s turning out to be a fabulous summer. He barely celebrates, preferring to knuckle down and reassert his authority with yet another clean-hit reverse sweep.
Wicket!! Malan c Stoinis b Agar 42 (England 106-2)
The breakthrough! Agar persuades Malan to slog-sweep towards the long boundary, where Stoinis takes a comfy catch. Is this the turning point? England need 52 from 40 balls.
13th over: England 105-1 (Buttler 48, Malan 42) Finch, who must be feeling desperate, brings back Cummins. bvut the feeling doesn’t get any better as Malan lifts a length ball over extra cover and Buttler pulls a short one behind square. Eleven off the over. On BBC1, Jimmy Anderson is being teased for his outfit – a white polo-neck. “Milk Tray man,” say his female colleagues. Yes, but with white chocolate.
12th over: England 94-1 (Buttler 42, Malan 37) Now, as Ashton Agar comes on, Buttler plays a reverse sweep that sounds like a rifle shot. He’s threatening to do just what Morgan wanted and bat right through the innings.
11th over: England 86-1 (Buttler 36, Malan 35) After playing second fiddle for a bit, Buttler suddenly gives us a solo, seeing a yorker from Richardson and block-driving it sweetly through the covers. England need 72 off nine overs; Australia need a classic English collapse.
“Hope you’re having a good afternoon?” says Michael Robinson. I am, thanks. It’s almost relaxing, by T20 standards. “If anyone like me got home later than expected, they can start the cricket on iPlayer from 2 hours ago, and catch most of the Aussies’ innings. Might hurt your figures though.” We can take it.
10th over: England 74-1 (Buttler 25, Malan 34) Malan starts in reverse again, sweeping Zampa’s googly fine for another four. And again he follows one four with another – a muscular thump down the ground, taking the partnership to 53 off 33 balls. Malan is so good at T20 that he can overtake Buttler after giving him a three-over start. At the halfway stage, England are cruising – but then so were Australia on this surface the other night.
9th over: England 64-1 (Buttler 24, Malan 25) With Zampa on, Malan decides to tuck into Maxwell. A reverse sweep for four off the first ball, a cut for four more off the second. Maxwell fights back well by beating the bat and then taking the edge, finding some turn on this tired pitch. Eleven off the over.
8th over: England 53-1 (Buttler 23, Malan 15) Here is Zampa, the man on a mission to bring back the mullet. He deceives Buttler, yorking him on the charge, but it only yields a bottom edge for a single. A tidy over, four off it, but what Australia really want is a breakthrough.
7th over: England 49-1 (Buttler 21, Malan 13) The upshot of the conference is a switch to spin, which is standard for the seventh over in T20 – but it’s a part-time spinner, Glenn Maxwell, rather than Zampa or Agar. Buttler keeps calm and takes a wily two with a wristy flick to the ring at midwicket.
6th over: England 44-1 (Buttler 17, Malan 12) Cummins is back, bowling yorkers outside off at Buttler, which is surprising – that’s what you do when you need to keep the runs down, not when you’re gasping for wickets. For Malan, Cummins switches to bowling short, and strikes him somewhere painful. When he pitches one up, Malan plays a Harrow drive for four. So England finish the Powerplay on 44-1, where Australia were 39-3. Finch, unsure what to do next, holds a conference with Smith.
5th over: England 37-1 (Buttler 16, Malan 7) Starc receives a rare honour from his captain: a third successive over. He has an appeal for caught behind against Malan, but it’s off the midriff, not the edge, as Malan is late on the pull. Malan puts that right instantly, pulling for four in front of square, and then Buttler plays a one-handed swish for four more. England are on top.
Another bulletin from our friend in the north, Anthony Bradley. “Pleased to report that news from The Marshfield says that Settle CC are Ribblesdale League 20/20 Champions again. Achieved with a team almost entirely made up of local lads who came through our junior section. The death of cricket greatly exaggerated at least in this corner of God’s Own County.”
4th over: England 27-1 (Buttler 12, Malan 2) Finch takes Cummins off and brings on Kane Richardson, who deals mainly in slower balls. He keeps the pressure on with four successive dots to Buttler – who keeps calm and swings the last ball onto the foam at long-on for six.
3rd over: England 20-1 (Buttler 6, Malan 1) Bairstow had just shown signs of finding his touch. He saw Buttler’s caress and raised him a lofted off-drive, followed by a more orthodox straight drive, both for four. Australia desperately needed a wicket and they got one by the most improbable route. Now they need another, to separate England’s two form batsmen.
Wicket! Bairstow hit wicket b Starc 9 (England 19-1)
Well this is a weird one. Bairstow misses a pacy bouncer, spins around – and knocks the bail off with his bat. You couldn’t make it up.
2nd over: England 11-0 (Buttler 6, Bairstow 1) Cummins starts well too as Buttler edges short of the only slip. Fed up with these dots, Buttler steps over to the off side and plays a fabulous pull that goes, like a bullet, for a single, as it’s straight to the man at deep square. Then he steps the other way and caresses a cover drive, on the up, for the first boundary of the innings. Cummins comes back with a ferocious yorker, Waqar Younis on speed, but it’s going down. We have a contest.
1st over: England 5-0 (Buttler 1, Bairstow 0) So this game hinges on whether Starc and Cummins can start as strongly as Archer and Wood did. After Buttler takes a single off a thick inside edge, Starc thinks he’s got Bairstow LBW first ball, and even reviews, but it’s swinging too much. It’s a fine first over from Starc, marred only by four leg byes. Finch gives him one slip when Steve Waugh would have had at least three.
Australia close on 157
20th over: Australia 157-7 (Cummins 13, Starc 2) The last over is entrusted to Archer, who set the tone so beautifully at the start. It doesn’t go well. He bowls a wide, then another one, as a slower-ball bouncer goes too high. Cummins flashes for four, then middles a mow for six to bring up the 150 in style. There’s another wide, so the over is threatening to go on for some time. Archer recovers with an exemplary yorker which he follows up by running out Agar. And then Starc gets enough of an inside edge to sneak two off the last ball. That’s 18 off the over, and Archer finishes with 4-0-32-1, when he was worth far more. Australia may have got out of jail – after that horror start, they’ve ended up only five short of England’s winning score the other night.
Meanwhile, a small piece of cricket history has unfolded: match abandoned because of a positive test for Covid.
Wicket! Agar run out Archer 23 (Australia 155-7)
Another direct hit, by Jofra Archer, off his own bowling. But Agar did pretty well.
19th over: Australia 139-6 (Agar 23, Cummins 2) Maxwell had walloped the first ball for four, but then he got overexcited. Agar steps up and plays a handsome straight drive, timing it so well that it beats the man at long-on. Eleven off the over, again. “England in complete control here,” says Ebony Rainford-Brent. Not sure I’d agree with that – the pitch is doing plenty, and the Aussies have a top-class new-ball pair.
“Having kindly mentioned Settle CC recently,” says Anthony Bradley, “thought you might like to hear of another big 20/20 match. Settle CC in the final of the Ribblesdale League 20/20 cup. Settle got 133 first up and some Lancastrians are 38/4 after 10 overs.”
Wicket!! Maxwell c Buttler b Jordan 26 (Australia 132-6)
Cometh the hour, cometh Chris Jordan, who somehow persuades Maxwell to nick a regulation length ball, perhaps because his eyes lit up.