Welcome, once again, to the summer of Jos. At five minutes past two, with the skies still bruised and grey, Jos Buttler produced one of those extraordinary shots, where suddenly the basic rules of batting seem to turn a little goofy and sozzled.
It came at just the right time too. England had crawled and then cantered their way to 317 for nine in the first innings of this final Test, driven there by Buttler’s resistance alongside Stuart Broad, who batted with tenacity and skill in the morning, only briefly switching into doomed drunken-scarecrow mode just before lunch.
Buttler was on 74 and starting to rev through the low gears as Jasprit Bumrah ran in to bowl from the Vauxhall end. As Bumrah’s arm came over Buttler slid his front foot to one side like a man cocking a revolver, waited an extra beat and then whipped his hands through the line of the ball in an exhilarating arc, sending it over long-on with such air the crowd had time to cheer the ball on the way up, on the way down and then to its final landing spot by the OCS stairwell.There was time for another top-edged hook into the crowd before Buttler was last man out. An expertly compiled 89 off 133 balls was enough to drive England into the box seat. And beyond that to confirm the ongoing Buttler Supremacy, six months from Mumbai to Kennington during which he has become English cricket’s biggest global white-ball star; and right now the Test team’s most effective batsman.