Buttler ready for unorthodox duel with Malinga

Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Jos Buttler’s whirlwind 47 from 16 balls against New Zealand at Trent Bridge last week, was one of the most brilliantly unconventional innings ever played by an England batsman. In its dexterity, strength and quick-wittedness, it had reminders of racquet sports and baseball with a spot of cricket thrown in. If Lasith Malinga is reverse swinging the ball at the end of England’s innings at The Oval on Thursday and Buttler is on strike, he could be about to face his greatest challenge of all.

Buttler’s knock at Trent Bridge was not as much an innings as an escapade, a tricksy collection of outlandish shots, as dapper as they were mischievous. In less than half an hour at the crease, he surely joined Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan as the type of England batsman to whet the appetite of many an IPL owner, if only they could find a way to get England players on the field.

Buttler is suddenly the England batsman the world wants to see, but next up comes Malinga as England seeks to overcome Sri Lanka and all but assure themselves of a place in the Champions Trophy semi-finals.

He will attempt to unveil his collection of scoops, swivel scoops and reverse scoops, with an occasional straight slug for good measure, against the bowler with the thickety hairstyle of the jungle and a Yorker that can be suitably ferocious. Buttler did not sound as if he is about to forego the challenge as he prepared for practice in the refined atmosphere of Dulwich College, an independent school in south-east London, where there were more artificial practice strips, a casual count brought 15, than in any county ground in the land, as well as a square of first-class standard.

“Any shot is harder against reverse swing, but the scoop is a big part of my game,” Buttler said. “I practise it a lot and if I feel the situation is right, I won’t be afraid to play it.

“I played against Malinga in the Champions League for Somerset against Mumbai and also in the World T20. I didn’t score many against him in the Champions League.

“He’s a world-class bowler and everyone knows how good he is. But I’m confident I can put in some good performances against him. He’s different, but he’s been around a while so people are more used to him now than when he first came on to the scene.”