Jos Buttler Scores 121 from 74 Balls, and England Still Lose: What Went Wrong?

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Jos Buttler Scores 121 from 74 Balls, and England Still Lose: What Went Wrong?
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Rarely can an innings of such brilliance have been played in a losing cause than Jos Buttler's record-breaking century on Saturday, which almost rescued England from an awful start and took them within seven runs of Sri Lanka's total.

That England managed to lose despite Buttler's outstanding innings is an indictment on the rest of England's batting and strategy.

Both openers, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, were dismissed within the first four overs, leaving England reeling at 10-2, at which point Gary Ballance was joined by Joe Root, who, although managing to keep their wickets intact, crawled along and were involved in the majority of a soporific passage of play that saw England go 130 balls without hitting a single boundary between the ninth and 31st overs.

It was the combination of this early double-wicket setback and over-zealous caution in the rebuilding phase that can be seen as the reason for England's defeat. 

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The mediocrity of much of England's early innings play was perpetuated by the brilliance of the latter-half. Buttler and Ravi Bopara struck 16 boundaries between them, both scoring at over a run-a-ball, their counter-attacking method of play in direct contrast to the sedate stroll of earlier proceedings. 

The inherent danger of the potential repercussions of the match for England moving forward is that, buoyed by the late surge from the double-Bs, the think-tank feel justified in their strategy of leaving the pair where they are in the order, namely at six and seven. 

If anything this innings has demonstrated exactly why England should not adopt such a tactic. Limited overs cricket now must be fearless cricket, and in hiding not only Bopara and Buttler but Eoin Morgan, too, so low in the order, England are playing fearful cricket. 

Of course, the conditions must be taken into account, and England opening with two classically English, technically correct accumulators is a response to the conditions opening batsmen face playing on English pitches with clouds overhead. However, if England are forever to be subservient to the conditions they face at home, then there will be a glass ceiling to their success playing abroad.

These are, of course, issues that can only be solved another day and, indeed, another series. But the events of Saturday serve to reemphasize how and where England are going wrong. 

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Buttler's innings, although one dictated to by a rare individual skill and genius, was an innings of bravado and bravery distinctly lacking in the batting of England's top order. Buttler's century, coming off just 61 balls, was the fastest ODI hundred ever by an Englishman, a record that, set at such a young age, is demonstrative of the potential his great talent bears. 

England lost on Saturday not because of an excellent final over from Lasith Malinga, nor because Bopara got out when he did, or indeed that Buttler failed to see his team across the line; they lost because of what came before. There is both reason to be optimistic and concerned in that.

For now, even in defeat, however, England should bask in possessing one of modern cricket's greatest prospects.

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