Buttler papers over England cracks as India march on
Third Test will go into fifth day thanks to Buttler and Stokes, but England must address problems
Jos Buttler has described his maiden Test century as his “proudest moment” on a cricket field.
His 106 against India on the fourth day of the third Test at Trent Bridge was the highlight for home fans on what overall was another desperately disappointing day.
India need only one wicket today to seal victory and narrow England’s series lead to 2-1 with two Tests remaining in what is shaping up to be a compelling contest. How England respond in Southampton in the fourth Test on Thursday week will be intriguing, as will the XI chosen by the selectors.
Buttler’s name is already inked on the team sheet, as is that of Ben Stokes, who scored a patient and mature 62 in a fifth-wicket stand of 169 that helped the hosts take the Test into the final day.
But India shouldn’t take too long to wrap up victory given that only Adil Rashid and James Anderson stand in their way, and then the England selectors will need to sit down and work out their response.
Jonny Bairstow’s broken finger almost certainly rules him out of the fourth Test and it would be a surprise to see Keaton Jennings open the batting with Alastair Cook after another failure. Cook, too, is desperately out of form, and the pair were dismissed in the first half an hour yesterday.
Joe Root is another whose touch has deserted him and he gifted his wicket to the Indians with a dreadful shot, as did Ollie Pope, too young to withstand such a pressurised situation as he was faced with on day four.
With England teetering on the brink at 62-4, Buttler and Stokes came together and crafted an impressive partnership with a combination of resolution, patience and aggression. Buttler, in particular, dispatched any loose ball to the boundary with ruthless precision, and the 21 fours he struck in reaching his hundred was a Test record shared with five other batsmen.
“This is definitely the proudest moment in an England shirt,” he told Sky Sports. “It has been a long time coming, and a few months ago it was a million miles away... to prove you can do it, that’s a huge part of it.”
Buttler said his ton was built on determination and pride. “It was very important for us to turn up today and show a lot of character and fight and not give it to India easily - make them work hard,” he said. “We did that really well throughout the day, even the two guys there at the end, making sure we do come back tomorrow. It showed that, no matter what it is, we’re not going to roll over.”
Alas, while that may be true of Buttler and Stokes, the rest of the England side are fast gaining a reputation as the kings of the spectacular collapse.
Buttler fell shortly after the new ball had been taken by the tourists, trapped LBW by Jasprit Bumrah, and England then lost three more wickets for just ten runs. Only a spirited 30 from Rashid (including five fours and a six) prevented the Indians from winning within four days as England finished on 311-9, still 210 shy of their target.
The pick of the Indian bowlers was Bumrah, who finished the day with figures of 5-85, and has taken his team to the brink of only their seventh Test victory in England.
As Mike Atherton writes in The Times, “on this evidence, you would not bet against them adding to it by the end of the summer”.