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An unbeaten and freakishly nerveless
An unbeaten and freakishly nerveless
century from Jos Buttler came to the rescue for England on Sunday , almost singlehandedly securing a nailbiting one-wicket victory over Australia and thus a first ever 5-0 whitewash of their historic rivals in any format.
How Eoin Morgan needed his star wicketkeeper’s intervention in sunny Manchester after the world’s most destructive batting line-up had given the latest reminder that, for all their record-breaking talent, a collective meltdown is still not
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totally out of the equation. Chasing just 206 following Moeen Ali’s career-best four for 46, England had stumbled to a troubling 114 for eight in the 30th over and a slice of history was slipping from
their grasp.But Buttler’s
110 not out
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from 122 balls – to go with Adil Rashid’s patient 20 and Jake Ball surviving a nervy 10 balls at No 11 – ensured the celebrations did not contain a pang of regret.
“It was just pure elation,” replied a champagne-soaked Buttler when asked to sum up the moment his punched four through
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the covers finished off this epic with nine balls to spare. “We didn’t really have the right to win the game so it was a great feeling.”Tim Paine, the Australian captain, added: “Right now he has to be the best white-ball wicketkeeper-batsman in the world. MS Dhoni is pretty good but [Buttler] is at the peak of his powers.”
Paine, whose stop-gap leadership of the one-day team will now be reviewed, admitted the scoreline “stings a lot”, not least after the 6ft 8in Billy Stanlake nearly salvaged something from this grim series when his three strikes reduced England to 66 for five in 16 overs before the interval (in light of Australia’s earlier collapse to 205 all out in 34.4 overs).Though Jason Roy had been bowled by Ashton Agar when trying to launch his third ball into the pavilion, it was Stanlake’s pace that did the true damage, forcing Jonny Bairstow to chop on, sneaking an edge to slip off Joe Root and then lighting up Morgan’s stumps.
With Alex Hales tamely edging Kane Richardson behind for 20 – the No3’s eyes lighting up at a wide one amid a breather for Stanlake – the only cheers around Old Trafford during this harrowing mini-session were courtesy of England’s goal-fest in Nizhny Novgorod.Things scarcely improved after the resumption, Moeen Ali squirting to point on 16 off Marcus Stoinis and Richardson removing Sam Curran, on debut, and Liam Plunkett in successive deliveries – the latter chasing a wide one just like Hales – to see England still 92 runs short with two wickets remaining.
Buttler, 47 not out at this stage, just needed a partner and found one in Rashid, the pair shaving off 81 runs in 16 overs and seeing off
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the threat of Stanlake. But when the junior man was caught in the deep, it brought Ball to the crease for the tense finale.Rather than pinch a single off the final ball of the over, Buttler instead decided to launch his first six to
bring up his sixth and slowest one-day century, cutting the target to five. Then followed some cat and mouse, with Ball surviving 10 balls, before his illustrious teammate delivered the coup de grace.
Perhaps it was fitting that a series dominated by England’s gluttonous top order should end with a packed house gripped by such drama. In Buttler they witnessed a true master at work, showing all the street smarts that make him the next captain of this side.There was some fine glovework to match his gimlet-eyed batting too, with his run-out of Paine via a spectacular pickup, roll and throw reducing the tourists to 100 for five after the Australian captain had won his fifth toss in a row.
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