Can we talk about Jos Buttler and Twenty20 a bit?

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We correct the spelling for free and call him 'Joseph Butler'

We really need to update the saying “throw the baby out with the bath water”. Who ‘throws out’ bath water these days? In the modern world, bath water exits via a plughole and no baby could be lost via one of those.

You could argue that a parent might be using a special baby bath from Mothercare or somewhere, but this doesn’t really change much because even then no-one’s going to be chucking the dirty water into the river. Ultimately, it’s still going to leave the house via the main bath, so even if you do carelessly upend your middle-class baby bath without first removing your offspring, only the water is lost. Thanks to the wonders of modern plughole technology, you can still salvage your child.

So we need a modern idiom. Maybe something about deleting the good tracks from otherwise bad albums when rationalising your MP3 player. We don’t know. It’s not our job to be in touch with the modern world. It’s our job to detest it for its vacuousness.

Where are we going with this?

We know that many of you have little time for Twenty20. You see the erratic results and feel that the format has little sporting merit as a result. England’s rankings during this series against New Zealand would appear to back you up. They were fourth; then they won and went third; and today they lost and fell to sixth.

But in denouncing the format and all events within it, we feel you may be throwing the baby out with the bath water. The matches themselves suffer from being small samples of data, but string enough together and you start to build a more complete picture. This is why we’re asking whether it’s okay to talk about Jos Buttler.

What of him?

Over the last couple of years, we’ve become increasingly aware that there is something rather special about Jos Buttler. It’s not that he plays that outrageous scoop shot and it is not that he wallops sixes. There are plenty of idiots hitting scoop shots and sixes. What’s striking is that he does it far, far more reliably than most.

It’s just luck

It’s NOT just luck. Batsman often talk about ‘the percentages,’ which refers to the risk and reward of any given shot in a particular situation. Jos Buttler invariably bats when the percentages are all pretty dreadful. It is his job to embrace risk more than those at the top of the order. However, this doesn’t mean that everything is in the lap of the gods, which is what many people mistakenly think.

Plenty of lower order batsmen can make 16 runs off 10 balls at the end of an innings – it really doesn’t catch the eye – but if a batsman is doing this again and again and again, there is something going on there.

Jos Buttler has been not out in five of his last seven innings in Twenty20 internationals and he was out today for 54 off 30 balls. In that period, he has averaged 74 with a strike-rate of 164. We’ll cheerfully admit that is still a very small sample size – just 90 deliveries – but it’s also worth noting that during passages of play where wickets are incredibly common, he has been scoring incredibly freely without being dismissed very often at all.

Add that to his domestic one-day record (average 56.89 and strike-rate of 119.13) and you have a little more evidence at your disposal. It’s still not a lot. There’s still no case to present. We’re just saying it’s something worth keeping an eye on. This is the kind of thing you have to do if you don’t want your baby to find themselves temporarily sitting in a dry, plugless bath.


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  1. I’m never quite sure how many of A, R, G and H to use in the next word, so forgive me if it differs from the received spelling. Forgive me also if this quiet preambulatory discussion lessens the impact of the word somewhat. I can assure you that no such lessening was intended, and that one could, perhaps should, ignore this diversion and begin reading at the upcoming capital A, as perhaps one more confident with his spelling and less fearful of the pack reaction might have allowed. With that said:


    What you said isn’t the criticism of T20! It’s not that it has no skill involved. Obviously it does. It is that the risk / reward decision at the heart of all good sports is dreadfully unbalanced. There are too few overs for the number of wickets each side has to lose, to the extent that the wickets column is only of any interest whatsoever at any stage of the match once it has got beyond five! So the fact that Bbutller has been not-out in so many matches is only relevant in that you consider him to be (on average) able to score faster than the next man in.

    England lost this match. They lost because of that superb batsman of consummate skill and ability BRENDAN McCULLUM! He had a good day, and in T20 one batsman having a good day is completely sufficient to get the win. One batsman, this one, that one, opener, sixth down – makes no difference. Nothing else in the entire game matters.

    I’d like to see Buutlerr in a few more ODIs, where the balance of his skills against the situation of the innings will actually be tested. If he can genuinely bat this fast and not lose his wicket too often, as you seem to imply he might be able to, he will be able to do it in a 50 over match in exactly the same way. I look forward to his strike rate of 164 in ODIs with interest.

    1. We consciously didn’t write about this match or this particular Buttler innings for the reasons given above.

      We would like to seem more of him in one-day internationals, but we do wonder whether AT PRESENT he might not be quite so adept at hitting the ones and twos that come more into play when a batsman takes it down a notch.

      Buttler might well be among the most reliable when it comes to striving for the maximum strike-rate, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fast-scorer in every gear.

      This might warrant another post as we can see what we’re saying here might not be too clear.

    2. Good points Bert. On a related note, the fact that there are too few overs in T20 for a ten-wicket innings makes it particularly annoying that Buttler was batting at six.

      As T20 is a game that one batsman can win by having a good day, you should give the batsman who is most apt to have a good day the chance to have as much of a good day as possible.

      Waiting to send him in until you’ve wasted half the innings and need nearly 15 an over is ridiculous.

  2. I think you protest a little too much, KC with the display of ersatz working class angst. I don’t think plastic plugless baby baths are particularly new-fangled or posh. they are, afterall, little more than platic buckets of larger than average size and non-axial symetric morphology. I don’t wish to presume, but I’d be very surprised if your royal infant hide wasn’t immersed in one.

    Wickets do count in T20 but only in that they often temporarily slow the run rate,or dismissing a significant individual not because there is significant danger of their total reaching 10. I’m not defending the format, which I think woefully repetitive and is just a roll of a die only very slighlty loaded towards the better team, but bowlers can win the game with wickets in it as well as in real cricket . I agree that the risk-reward thingy is all wrong for T20- but England’s best chance would have been getting McCullum out early.

    I do wonder though, if all the clerical records were lost, how would you select a pope?

  3. Scoring quickly and being a T20 batsmen are two different things. Bradman scored quickly. So did Viv Richards. As do Sehwag and Tendulkar. These are people who never sacrificed their technical mastery to do the scoring. They were/are just very good batsmen who can score off even seemingly good deliveries. Thus, they are successful across formats. Someone like McCullum, for instance, would never be as successful in ODI/tests because he just doesn’t have the technical capability to score quickly whilst playing orthodox cricket. The question is: what kind of batsman is Buttler?

    1. It’s not an either/or. It’s a continuum. Buttler’s certainly towards the Twenty20 fast-scoring end of the spectrum at present, but to have become as adept as he has at that by the age of 22 bodes well for his becoming a more rounded player.

  4. His partnership with Morgan in the second warmup match of the tour was something very special. Two consummate finishers who chipped the ball around for singles when needed, and walloped boundaries with impunity.

    1. That’s a maybe compounded by another maybe, but we don’t see why not. Early days though.

  5. I live on a boat and when we give our baby a bath the water does end up in the river. But the baby doesn’t, so point mainly taken. Actually, we did take the baby swimming in the river once, but it wasn’t bath-related. Although we did gave it a bath afterwards when we remembered what else boat dwellers pump into the river.

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