There is a day between the third ODI against India and the first of three against South Africa, with another three T20Is before the end of the month. Then will tour Pakistan and Australia just before October’s T20 World Cup.
As such, Jos Buttler’s challenge over the next six weeks is to strike a balance: he needs to keep his players fit and fresh enough to top the knockout stages of the World Cup, but also with the responsibility of keeping the game’s many casualties. Not that they struggled during the last break: in the gap between the second and third New Zealand Tests, they set a world record of 498 for 4 against the Netherlands at Amstelveen.
“Across the country you can hear the excitement the way people are talking about the Test team and the way they are playing cricket,” Jos Buttler said on Wednesday. “We’ve seen great batting on the last day of Tests and great games going on throughout the five days. This is truly Test cricket at its best. The players, in particular, and the public are really enjoying it.”
Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes will return to the white-ball set-up for next week’s ODIs but have been rested this week, which means the T20I series will see some newcomers getting opportunities like Harry Brooke and Phil Salt is competing for the finisher’s spot in the middle order, while Moeen Ali and Sam Curran can be used as floating hitters against India’s spinners.
“The teams I’ve played for in the last two or three years have never had a very structured order,” Butler said. “It’s trying to be pretty dependent on what the game needs and trying to best match people up against the opposition. It’s about looking at ways you can get more out of people.” or be more forward thinking in terms of T20 cricket… there is a lot of power, we need to try to make the most of it.”
With the ball, several seamers will be hoping to impress: Reece Topley, Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills are set to find a place in the squad, but David Willey and Richard Gleason will be in the picture for the second and third games. Matt Parkinson has the opportunity to confirm his position as a back-up spinner.
It will be Butler’s first T20I since last year’s World Cup semi-final, when England lost to New Zealand at 166 for 4. It was only the fifth time he had batted first in 17 matches, but Butler said this summer his focus would be on results rather than practicing defending scores for it.
He said, “I don’t think we desperately need to bat first at every opportunity, just to expose ourselves to that. I don’t want us to get into a situation where we devalue the game and think that They’re all just practice matches, like, ‘Let’s do this because it could be in six or 12 months’. I want us to keep an eye on the future but still try to win games of cricket at that time.”