To the relief of the Australians, perhaps, Jos Buttler has left the Southampton bubble “for personal reasons” and will therefore not be available for the final Twenty20 match on Tuesday evening. The expectation is that Buttler will rejoin the white-ball squad in Manchester for the three one-day internationals, which will complete Australia’s whistle-stop tour of the UK.
Eoin Morgan had said he intended to play his best side in the final T20 match rather than give outings to squad members who have been on the sidelines. In Buttler’s absence Tom Banton is likely to be promoted to the opener’s slot, which is what he is accustomed to doing, Dawid Malan will stay at three and presumably Sam Billings is the likeliest replacement. Moreover the England camp will want to be sure that Morgan himself is not hampered by the blow to the finger that caused him to leave the field briefly on Sunday.
Given the princely form displayed by Buttler in both matches so far Australia now have a better chance of registering their first victory of the tour. Ashton Agar sums it up: “He is difficult to bowl to, he can hit the ball all around the ground and he finishes off a load of games for England. He’s a gun – there no question about that.”
Likewise even the experienced eyes of the latecomer Dawid Malan pop open when Buttler is in full flow. “I’ve had the best seat in the house. You watch these guys on TV quite a lot, especially when you’re not a regular, and you see the ball-striking capability of them. But when you’re standing at the other end you see how clean and hard Jos hits the ball. He hit one back at Richardson on Saturday that was like an absolute tracer bullet. I hardly saw it. It’s fantastic to be there and watch how the guys go about their work. Even though I’m 33 years old and I’ve played 200 games of Twenty20, you’re still a little bit in awe of the way guys like that play.”
However, the presence of Malan in the middle has been reassuring recently. He knows the competition for places is so fierce that he cannot take anything for granted. “Hopefully I’ve ticked a few boxes that Eoin, the selectors and the coaches want. But I’m obviously aware that guys like Jason [Roy] and Stokesy will come back at some point, and it’s my job to score as many runs as I can to put pressure on them and Morgs.”