It has taken 38 innings for Buttler to record his maiden Test century and it was his application, not just his ball-striking, that stood out
It was not enough to earn him the nickname of St Jude – the patron saint of lost causes – but in securing his maiden Test century and ensuring that England’s experience here has not solely been one of batting ineptitude, Jos Buttler made a significant point to himself, his teammates and perhaps the wider public, too.
After all, until it was trumped by that of Adil Rashid at the start of this series, the restoration of Buttler to the Test team by England’s new selection impresario, Ed Smith, in May was among the most eye-catching and controversial in recent memory. How could a batsman with four first-class hundreds from 128 innings and a diet consisting solely of white-ball cricket over the previous eight months leapfrog those who had spent the opening exchanges of the County Championship season dutifully negotiating the Dukes ball in devilish spring conditions?
Yet few of the dissenting voices came from the group supposedly shunned by this move. For they understood that the message from Smith was not that the Indian Premier League is the new gilded route to the whites of England, but rather an exception can be made provided you are blessed with the talents Buttler possesses.
On Tuesday, and at the 38th attempt, these finally translated into three figures in a Test innings as a tucked four off his pads from Mohammed Shami brought emotional celebrations from this soft spoken but steely eyed 27-year‑old. Though he threaded 21 fours in what should prove a breakthrough performance, it was the application shown during a four-hour vigil that impressed rather than his ball-striking.
Granted, Buttler had a life on one – Rishabh Pant, the India wicketkeeper, was wrongfooted by an edge via the wide-angled Jasprit Bumrah – but thereafter he placed a high price on his wicket, batting longer and more watchfully than ever before. If the odd edge flew through a vacant catching position, it was luck that had been earned.
Ben Stokes was even more obdurate, with the 147-ball half-century, his slowest to date and one that helped England to their first wicketless session this series. The faith shown in picking Stokes for this Test cannot be said to have been repaid but this innings was a start.
There will be curious folk who may claim the heat was off, with the game long since decided. But India’s attack had their tails up, the ball was reversing, the worn pitch was offering variable bounce and the prospect of a second limp subsidence – and the all-out opprobrium that would have followed – was pressure enough.
The pair’s stand of 169 from 57.2 overs – the highest for the fifth wicket by England in a fourth innings – also arrested what had been a haunting set of similarities with last summer’s Trent Bridge Test against South Africa, when a second-day meltdown led to Joe Root’s first defeat as captain.
It also came from an all-too familiar position, with England 62 for four when Ollie Pope flashed at a wide one from Shami, thus making it the 31st time in their past 62 innings that a quartet of batsmen have departed before getting 100 on the board.
Pope, whose hard-handed approach makes his spot at No 4 look dubious, was not alone in this recklessness, however, with Root capping a lamentable match with the bat when trying to punch Bumrah off the back foot. The England captain seldom looks out of nick even when the returns are low, so this will be of some concern.
So, too, will the opening partnership of Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings, with both men departing early to Ishant Sharma edging balls that moved away from them. Much has been made of Ravi Ashwin against the left-handers, but India’s 6ft 2in seamer is the man now knocking them over too easily.
These issues, plus a broken finger for Bairstow, are significant headaches for Smith and his panel for next week’s fourth Test at the Ageas Bowl. England will still be leading the series and following the efforts of Buttler and Stokes, albeit 48 hours too late, the rest at least now have something from which to learn.
This article was originally sourced from here.