An injury sustained during The Hundred could have easily taken Jos Buttler out of the trip. But he came with the team which was touring Pakistan for the first time after 17 years.
But he insisted on the journey, partly to continue his rehabilitation work ahead of next month’s World Cup and also to lean into the responsibility of leadership.
While he has played a hands-on role in on-field decision-making, handing over deputy Moeen Ali, he is looking throughout the journey to pick up cues about his squad.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s sixth Twenty20 of the seven-match series, which England need to win to force a decider on Sunday, Jos Buttler told Sky Sports: “It’s a unique situation, playing here Not for but to be able to see.
“I’m learning a lot by listening to the group and seeing how people go about things, of course I’m watching the game without feeling, wondering what you’ll be doing at certain times.
“We are spending a lot of time together here in Pakistan, it is wonderful for all of us to be together. Moeen has been fantastic. I’ve asked him to lead and take it as if he’s the captain and he’s been great around the group, as he always is, and really impressive on the field. ,
Journey initially expected Buttler to attempt a return on Friday, or a series finale on Sunday, but this is increasingly looking impossible.
Buttler suggested he was in a position to field at a push, but conservatism appears to be a key directive, given the number of fitness issues surrounding the squad.
Personally, I don’t think we would risk such a big player with the World Cup. He might wake up and think ‘I feel good, I love to play’ but I wouldn’t risk someone like him.
Moeen Ali on Buttler
“I think if there was a World Cup game tomorrow, I would have been able to play,” he said.
“But I’m being a little cautious and taking it slowly. If I had to, I could.”
Moeen continued: “Personally, I don’t think we would risk such a big player with the World Cup. He might wake up and think ‘I feel good, I love to play’ but I wouldn’t risk someone like him.”
All-rounder Moeen, whose 51 not out was not enough to avert a defeat on Wednesday, knows the series is on the line in each of the next two matches and only back-to-back wins will suffice for an away win.
But with a tournament being close, he welcomes this kind of situation.
“It’s good to win the matches needed to go to the World Cup,” he said.
“It’s the semi-finals and the final for our team now. We have to win to stay in it. It will be really good to see where the boys are. There is pressure all the time in international cricket, so it’s good to see how we react. Huh.”
England have already used 18 of their 20-man squad and rotated their XI regularly and now have to decide whether to continue with that process or pick the strongest available team.
Uncapped pair Tom Helm and Jordan Cox may have to wait for their chances, if the latter picks the course.