There can be no prouder moment for a cricketer than receiving your first international cap, and for wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, it couldn’t have been set up better. Coming to the crease with his side firmly in control and alongside the experienced Ian Bell, Buttler plundered 85 at better than a run a ball to display just a small part of the devastating ball striking that has made him a household name in limited-overs cricket. Of course every debutant would dream of the luck that Buttler was privy to on day two of this match; first given the benefit of the doubt by the third umpire when an appeal for caught at slip was sent upstairs, before sending a regulation edge into the cordon to see it turfed by Shikhar Dhawan. Buttler didn’t need asking twice as he passed 50 with consummate ease before coming down the track to Ravindra Jadeja missing the ball only to see MS Dhoni making a hash of it behind the stumps and allow his opposite number to make his ground. Eventually chopping on for 85, there is no doubt Buttler will come to the crease in far more testing situations, but he made sure he didn’t fluff his lines first time out.
It is very, very easy to get hyped up about a promising player only for the weight of pressure and expectation to become too much. It happened with Joe Root for a while but the young Yorkshireman is a better player for it. Despite a baptism of fire in the ill-fated Ashes tour last winter, Gary Ballance is yet to face that dip in form, but his fledgling record at the highest level puts him up there with the best. Averaging 65.55 in Test cricket with three hundreds and a Test best of 156 in this match, Ballance has showed a grit and determination that should see him firmly placed as a mainstay in the England top six. He has also found himself a regular in the slips and could become a vital member of the Cook/Moores era.
When players are out of form, it is normally blatantly obvious to everyone watching, Alastair Cook the perfect case in point. For Ian Bell though, a technique straight out of the coaching manual and a grace and poise matched by few, means it is less obvious to the untrained eye other than the fact he was statistically short of runs. Bell though rolled back the clock 12 months with a majestic 167 to show the sort of form that saw him named man of the series in the last home Ashes series. Moving through the gears superbly, the Warwickshire batsman has clearly worked hard on his game in the nets and manipulated the field like a puppet master. As one of the experienced members of this England team, Bell is pivotal in any success this side has, and if he continues to be supported well by the younger members of the squad, Bell will find himself mentioned in the same breath of some of his country’s finest performers.
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