England wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler said that their highly competitive series against West Indies was the ideal preparation as the world’s No.1-ranked one-day international team aims to lift the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup trophy for the first time at home.
Buttler launched a phenomenal assault on the home team in the fourth ODI in Grenada, biffing 13 fours and 12 sixes in a 77-ball 150. Buttler’s innings moved at breathtaking speed after he reached 50, with the next 100 runs taking just 31 balls.
It powered England to 418/6, but they were made to sweat for the win, after Chris Gayle matched Buttler stroke for stroke during his 162 off 97 balls. But Gayle’s dismissal, with 16 overs left in the chase, proved to be the turning point as the Windies lost their last five wickets for 88 runs to be bowled out for 389.
England have been billed the favourites for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, but Buttler said that the competitive nature of the series in the Caribbean offered a reality check: that on any given day, teams can spring upsets at the World Cup.
"It was hectic," Buttler told Sky Sports. "I'm trying to catch my breath. It was an unbelievable game of cricket. I think as a side, being put under a huge amount of pressure in a game like that, we showed a huge amount of character to come through it.
"It's a great dress rehearsal, with lots of pressure. But it just goes to show, no matter who's favourite, on any given day there will be unbelievable games of cricket, and if Chris Gayle is in the opposition, you can lose those games. I've probably never seen anyone hit sixes as easy as he can. He's a legend of the game."
Buttler heaped praise on fast bowler Mark Wood and leg-spinner Adil Rashid. Wood cut through the top and middle order, chipping away early to dismiss John Campbell and Shai Hope. Later, he accounted for Darren Bravo, ending a burgeoning third-wicket stand of 176, and followed it up with the wicket of Shimron Hetmyer two balls later. The scalps ensured that the pressure stayed on the Windies, irrespective of how ballistic Gayle went at the other end.
Rashid took a shellacking for the bulk of the match, but then hastened West Indies' slide by snaring the last four wickets, all on the same score, in five balls. He wound up with 5/85 in 10 overs.
"We needed wickets all the time, because we felt that if Gayle batted long enough they'd win the game, which is incredible when you've got 420 on the board," said Buttler. "Mark Wood was outstanding again. He bowled fantastically, with a lot of confidence, charging in and bowling fast. A fit and firing Wood has got that X-factor.
"And I like the way that Adil wants the ball in those situations. Being able to spin the ball both ways, he's tough to get after. We juggled the bowlers well, and for Adil to bowl an over like that at that time was special. We were put under great pressure and did well to stand up to it."
As for his own performance, Buttler was aided by Joe Root, who cleared up the picture by giving him a score to aim for. "It was special," he said of his innings. "I enjoyed it, because when you get into that zone, to continue it is pleasing. Range hitting is fun, I enjoy practising it in the nets, with no consequences, just learning to have fun, improvise and improve.
"I had a chat with Joe Root [when I came to the crease], he said we needed north of 350, so knowing that was at the back of my mind. With 12-13 overs left, we were well set so it was time to kick on. That's one of the strengths of the team. There are no egos, we have a lots of guys willing to bat in a multitude of positions, with no set batting order."
"Mark Wood was outstanding again. He bowled fantastically, with a lot of confidence, charging in and bowling fast. A fit and firing Wood has got that X-factor. "
Gayle also showered praise on the England batsman for his match-winning potential. "Buttler is superb," he said. "You can't take away the fact that he's one of the best strikers in the world today. But he's not close to the Universe Boss though.
"But he's a youngster, he'll get there eventually. He's showcased his talent all round the world. He's a game changer, a game winner, any team needs a Buttler in their team to win them games. He's a superb player, he's been in superb form from the last IPL, and he's done this for England for some time. He's a key player, batted superbly well and took the game away from us."
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