After scoring his first half-century of the series to help keep England above water on the first day at The Oval, Jos Buttler admitted the Ashes had been a struggle for him. Having tried to “scrap through” his poor form, he reached the close on an unbeaten 64, finally hinting at the freedom his game is known for with a barrage of boundaries that included three towering sixes.
Following another batting collapse that saw England go from 170 for 3 to 214 for 8, Buttler could be forgiven for looking at the “F*** it” motto on his bat handle and deciding to do just that. He had grafted his way to 20 from 44 while wickets fell around him, before his next 44 came at more than a run a ball as he attempted to bring out the scoops and reverse-sweeps that characterise his one-day game.
“I’ve just found it hard all series,” he said. “An excellent attack and I don’t think I’ve played very well. I haven’t really got in and the period at the start of your innings is always tough. You have to be on it straight away and they challenge you straight away. I haven’t quite been good enough to get through those periods, but the last couple of games I tried to fight as hard as I could. I didn’t necessarily feel great at the crease but tried to scrap my way through it.
“The new ball was about 10-12 overs away, I thought that would be the hardest time to try and attack, with the bowlers having bowled a lot, it felt the best time to score some runs, and find a bit more enjoyment in my batting.”
On the subject of whether he had felt drained by England’s World Cup exploits, Buttler said he had been trying not to listen to all the talk about workloads. “It’s been a big test this summer, both mentally and physically,” he said. “Any game against Australia is massive and you find something within yourself to do it for your team. The more you can remind yourself, the more you find energy to do that.”
That England ended the day with 300 still a possibility was almost entirely down to Buttler putting on an unbroken stand of 45 in 11.2 overs alongside No. 10 Jack Leach, who continued his string of unexpected batting cameos this summer by digging in for 10 not out.
“It was good fun,” Buttler said of batting alongside his former Somerset team-mate. “I’ve found batting hard this summer, so it was nice to try and relax and have some fun. That style of batting comes quite naturally to me, I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to bat like that, so I enjoyed it, especially with him at the other end.”
Despite surviving to the close after being inserted, England would have envisaged being in a stronger position after reaching tea only three wickets down and with conditions having eased. Rory Burns continued his impressive series with 47 – although his dismissal pulling limply to midwicket was a surprise – while Joe Root survived three dropped catches to make 57, with Buttler suggesting that neither team had yet forged a clear advantage.
“I’ve found batting hard this summer, so it was nice to try and relax and have some fun. That style of batting comes quite naturally to me”
“Maybe a little bit in the balance. We lost the toss but got into a very good position, 100 and something for 2 and 170 for 3. Shame not quite to capitalise on that but it showed there is a little bit in the wicket for batters and bowlers. If you played well and applied yourself there were runs to be had but likewise with the ball it swung a bit all day and the odd one nipped around, so I think if you bowled well there were wickets to be had as well.
“I think we were going to bat. Not many times Australia bowl first. I was a little bit surprised but it showed there was a bit of indecision with the way the wicket looked. Not like ten years ago when you turned up and knew you were going to bat. I think it’s actually been a pretty good cricket wicket, a bit in it for both.”
He also praised Burns for having a “fantastic series”, after the Surrey opener took his tally to 370 runs at 41.11 – more than Alastair Cook ever aggregated in a home Ashes.
“He’s played brilliantly. One of the big things that impressed me straight away with Rory is that he just acted like an international cricketer. He probably didn’t have the results early on but he handled it brilliantly, he showed the character he’s got. He’s got a huge amount of skill and he’s been the standout opening batsmen in county cricket for a number of years. He’s earned his chance and as much as the runs he’s scored I think it’s the character he’s showed that has stood him brilliantly through this series.”