With thoughts turning towards next year’s World Cup, Eoin Morgan‘s last-minute back spasm which ruled him out of the match in Cardiff provided a useful experience for England in a scenario that could play out during the tournament.
This is not to wish injury on anyone, but they can occur at any moment and disrupt the best-laid plans. At Sophia Gardens, Jos Buttler had about 20 minutes warning that he would lead England when Morgan was ruled out. The end result was a consummate performance from England, in which Buttler made 90 off 71 balls before marshalling the defence in the field when Australia threatened to run the game close thanks to Shaun Marsh.
England are a well drilled and very confident one-day side, so it should come as no shock that the loss of Morgan didn’t derail them. The second match of a five-match series, when the team is leading 1-0, is not as crucial a situation as could play out at the World Cup, but the smooth handover to Buttler reinforced the stability in the team.
It was the fourth ODI Buttler had captained following the series in Bangladesh where he stood in for Morgan after he had withdrawn from the tour over security concerns.
“I enjoyed it, a bit more stressful going through lots of decision, the buck stops with you,” Buttler said. “As vice-captain you can suggest a few, and hide behind that, but it’s the captain’s decision. It’s enjoyable. It’s a very good side to captain. At times the side captains itself, with defined roles for the players and a lot of experience in the group, so the guys know what they’re doing.”
The late change in captaincy meant it was the first time ever an England-Australia international had seen two glovemen in charge. “Lots of captains have been wicketkeepers as well. You’ve got a pretty good position to see what’s happening and what’s going on, so I don’t think it’s a problem,” Buttler said.
As Buttler suggested, he did not reinvent the wheel in the field but he was alert to various situations. He hustled through overs from Moeen Ali and Joe Root, but whipped Adil Rashid out of the attack after four expensive overs – although they included the wicket of Aaron Finch – and then brought him back in the final 10 overs when an extra fielder is allowed out.
Rashid responded with a googly to defeat Ashton Agar, just as his stand with Marsh was making England sweat, again showing the value of a legspinner at the death. Alongside another impactful performance from Liam Plunkett – whose brace of wickets in the 46th over finally snuffed out the chase – it ended up being reasonably comfortable for England.
“Adil came back really well, I asked a lot of him to bowl in the last 10 overs,” Buttler said. “It’s never easy. He and Liam have been fantastic wicket-takers for us throughout the last few years, so those two guys always seem to have that knack of picking up crucial wickets, so it’s great to have them in your armoury.
“It seems like a tough ground to defend, with the wind and the short boundaries. [Shaun Marsh] was playing very well. With our fielding we could have been a bit sharper, we missed a few fumbles. I thought we had enough, but you’re never quite sure.”
Such are the expectations around this England one-day side, that their total of 343 – a record against Australia – felt a little below what it could have been but it helped put to rights the indifferent chase at The Oval which began the series. The series can be wrapped up a Trent Bridge and already there is talk of the whitewash.
“We’re putting in good performances. It’s very important for us to continue to show why we got ourselves to No. 1 in the world,” Buttler said. “There’s a World Cup around the corner, so we need to keep polishing up in those areas we can improve. A by-product of that is winning the series in comprehensive fashion. But we’ve got to keep going game by game and not get ahead of ourselves or get complacent.”