Just 48 hours after the last echoes of England’s victory cheers died out following their stunning Test win against India at Edgbaston a whirlwind international summer continues on Thursday with a fresh cast for the first of three Twenty20 internationals in four days against the same opponents. Same show, different cast.
Given the Test side’s transformation there might not be any particularly new tricks, and Jos Buttler prepared for his first match as full‑time white-ball captain with talk of pushing boundaries and exploring new levels that could almost have been lifted from any of Ben Stokes’s recent pronouncements.
“What they’re doing has been our style of cricket for quite a while now, so it will be much the same and, if anything, can we take it to new levels?” Buttler said. “That’s what we’ll always be challenging ourselves on. A big part of this team is not to set boundaries and not to have limitations. Are there areas we can keep pushing the limits?”
Buttler has certainly been pushing the limits of his own potential of late, top-scoring at the Indian Premier League this year and plundering 248 runs across two ODI innings in the Netherlands last month, while in nine T20I innings since the start of last summer he averages a heady 83.4.
“In terms of a place to take over from, if I’m not ready to take over now then I’d never be,” he said. “I think I’m in the best place I could ever be to become captain at this moment.”
It is a moment plump with potential, with a white-ball World Cup scheduled for this year and each of the next two and several explosive young players trying to force a way into an experienced and successful side. Even in the absence of first-choice starters such as Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid, they are finding it hard to do so, but in this rush of matches fixtures are so compressed that some rotation will be essential.
Buttler promises that “guys will have opportunities to really stake a claim” but is also clear his priority will be results over experimentation. “I don’t want us to get to a situation where we devalue games and think that they’re all just practice matches, like: ‘Let’s do this because it might happen in six months’ time,’” Buttler said.
“I want us to have an eye on the future but try to win games of cricket at the time being as well.
“There will definitely be areas where we can expose players or try things, but I don’t want us to get to a point where we’re just an experimental side unless it’s a tournament.”
Surprisingly one of the areas in which Buttler is not suggesting significant change is their one obvious weakness: death bowling. While accepting it is an issue, his belief is that it is overestimated. “It is a pretty thankless task at the moment in white-ball cricket, it proves incredibly difficult,” he said.
“It’s how you manage that – do you try and be more aggressive at the start to take more wickets so you’re not bowling at set batsmen at the death? The gains you’re trying to make are actually only maybe one or two runs. So it’s not necessarily trying to make huge changes – you’re just trying to save a run or two here or there.”
These will be England’s first games since Matthew Mott’s appointment as white-ball coach, and Buttler has already identified one thing the Australian seems particularly good at: nothing. “He’s got the nice balance of the way he is able to sit back and watch,” the 31-year-old said.
“We ask guys to play with a lot of freedom, so there are times that myself and Motty will have to just sit back and let guys go, because that’s what we want them to do. I think he’s very good at that.”
As a new era and a potentially explosive series gets under way, Mott won’t be the only one ready to sit back and watch.