While it can’t be said with certainty whether Buttler can run a country or not, there is no doubt about his abilities with a bat in hand.
In the fifth and final ODI against Australia, England were dead and buried at 114-8 chasing 206 for victory and a 5-0 series sweep.
Buttler had spinner Adil Rashid for company and even though the leggie has three international fifties, the pitch in Manchester and a rejuvenated Australian bowling attack meant hopes were not high in the England camp.
But Buttler kept going. Hitting 12 fours and one six, the wicketkeeper batsman notched up a fine 110 not out from 122 balls to secure a tense one-wicket, seal the whitewash and establish himself as the one of the biggest match-winners in the game at the moment.
In his last 14 innings, Buttler has amassed 864 runs at an average of 108 with 10 fifty-plus knocks. That run includes five consecutive fifties in the Indian Premier League, a series leveling 80 not out against Pakistan in the Leeds Test and three unbeaten fifty plus knocks against Australia in the ODIs.
His century on Sunday was by far the slowest of his six ODI tons. But given the context of the match and conditions, it was one of his finest in England colours.
Eoin Morgan’s team are the number one ODI side in the world and the clear favourites to lift their maiden 50-over world title at home next year. If Buttler continues to bat the way he is right now, it’s difficult to pick any side that can stop England.
England’s hopes of pulling off a clean sweep appeared all washed up at Old Trafford when they faltered to 114 for eight in pursuit of an under-par 205 all out in the one-day series finale.
But Buttler (110 not out) – who had already improvised a run-out and stumping in his wicketkeeping role – gave England the last laugh after all in Sunday’s tale of the unexpected.
They had bowled Australia out in just 34.4 overs, yet then – beginning their reply 10 minutes later – contrived to collapse to 50 for five against the pace and bounce of Billy Stanlake (3-35) before the scheduled lunch break.
Buttler then had to bat against type as he finally found lasting support from Adil Rashid in a ninth-wicket stand of 81, and then scrambled the last 11 runs alongside number 11 Jake Ball, to carry England to the first 5-0 whitewash of their Ashes rivals in any format, with nine balls to spare.
“That hundred from Jos Buttler is one of the finest ODI innings I’ve ever seen,” says Kumar Sangakkara - who played 404 ODIs. Buttler is adding ice cool game management to stunning talent - what a player he is. #EngvAus— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) June 24, 2018
His share was a brilliant 117-ball century, by far the slowest of his six in ODIs, and a compelling late bid for a man-of-the-series award which had been destined instead for one of England’s top three after their heroics elsewhere.
It seemed a formality that the line-up which piled up a world-record 481 for six at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, then made light of England’s second-highest successful run chase at Chester-le-Street three days ago, would comfortably come out on top.
That assumption did not last long. Jason Roy was first to go, for a single in the very first over, after Australia took a chance on the spin of Ashton Agar with the new ball – and the opener gave him the charge, missed and was bowled.
Stanlake then took over from the Statham End, Jonny Bairstow bowled and Joe Root edging to slip before captain Eoin Morgan was castled by pace.
If England thought they were in calmer waters once Stanlake’s new-ball spell was done, they had to think again because Alex Hales chased a wide one and was caught-behind in Kane Richardson’s first over.
Buttler was already batting admirably but as Richardson returned to take two in two, debutant Sam Curran and Liam Plunkett caught-behind, support remained sadly lacking until Rashid strutted in at number 10.
He stayed put until hoisting Marcus Stoinis to long-leg in the 46th over but Buttler would not be denied.
Irrespective of what followed, Australia’s innings was manic and flawed after they won the toss in glorious conditions.
Moeen and then Curran – both with two wickets in three balls – took turns to stop the tourists in their tracks.
Travis Head (56) hit his third successive half-century, but got out frustratingly soon afterwards for the third time too, and D’Arcy Short was left unbeaten three runs short of his maiden ODI fifty.
Australia faltered from 60 for none in little more than six overs to 100 for five – and they crumbled a second time after Short shared a stand of 59 with Alex Carey.
Head and Aaron Finch hit Curran out of the attack in an early onslaught which threatened to put unaccustomed pressure on the England bowlers, only for the introduction of Moeen to break the opening stand.
Finch edged an attempted pull down on to his leg-stump, and then Stoinis misswept Moeen to short fine-leg for a second-ball duck.
Australia repeatedly made much of their own trouble thereafter, captain Tim Paine one of two run out and Agar becoming Curran’s second victim when he played no shot to a straight ball.
Unaccountably, England conspired to bat even worse until Buttler took charge.
From current players to legends like Sachin Tendulkar, everyone weighed in on the debate surrounding the incredible run of scores in England.
However, the first and final ODI of the five-match series saw the bowlers hold their own. In the opening match, the Aussies were bowled out for 214 and then made life difficult for England, who crossed the finish line seven wickets down.
Then in the fifth ODI on Sunday, Tim Paine’s men were shot out for 205 inside 35 overs before England lost half their side for 50 before the mid-match break.
In Manchester, all bowlers got an opportunity to take wickets. England left-arm seamer Sam Curran got a couple of scalps while spinners Moeen Ali (4-46) broke the Aussies’ back as he got the ball to grip and turn.
When the Aussies bowled, it was the pace of Billy Stanlake that made all the difference as he produced false shots from England’s batsmen who were playing as they would on a ‘regular’ wicket. Jonny Bairstow chopped the lanky Queenslander onto his stumps while Joe Root perished while pushing the same bowler off the back foot.
Billy Stanlake you bloody beauty.— Peter Lalor (@plalor) June 24, 2018
The big lad shoots one through Morgan who is out for a duck.
This is the sort of bowling the team has been waiting for from the elongated one.
Stanklake has 3-12 (3.4o)
England captain Eoin Morgan was castled while defending a straight Stanlake delivery. Other Aussie bowlers – be it finger spinner Ashton Agar or seamers Marcus Stoinis and Kane Richardson – got enough encouragement from the surface to choke the life out of England’s batting.
A marginally challenging wicket at Old Trafford is all it took for bowlers to come into the picture, seam or finger spin.
In ODIs, or any format for that matter, a remotely tough wicket is all that is required for bowlers to be all over the batsmen like a rash.
Most modern batsmen don’t have enough patience to grind their way out of trouble. Which is why you see so many Tests finishing inside four days and teams scoring either 200 or 350 plus in ODIs.
Unfortunately for bowlers, wickets like the one in Manchester don’t come around too often. No board or broadcaster wants a low-scoring white-ball game.
Fans wants sixes, centuries and high-scoring tense chases. While 220-odd games can be very entertaining, it doesn’t feed the ‘basic’ need of fans – sixes and runs – in the T20 era.
It’s fairly easy to make it a fairer contest between bat and ball in ODI cricket. Whether those who run the show want that is the main issue.