Jos Buttler shows how to sculpt an improbable win | Crickit
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Jos Buttler shows how to sculpt an improbable win

Apr 18, 2024 06:23 AM IST

Hanging in despite a slow start, willing to take the chase down to the wire like Dhoni and Kohli, Buttler has welded caution with aggression

Not for nothing do batters like to chase in white-ball cricket. Yet it can’t be simple if wickets keep tumbling till there’s no one to hold the other end. Jos Buttler would differ. For Buttler to not get overwhelmed by the lack of partners and take an ever-soaring required run rate head on is a triumph of a mindset that refuses to be short sighted. Twenty overs make up an innings, one ball an event by itself, presenting the batter with a range of probable results. Nothing’s over till it’s finally over.

Rajasthan Royals' Jos Buttler celebrates after scoring his century and winning the match against Kolkata Knight Riders(ANI )
Rajasthan Royals' Jos Buttler celebrates after scoring his century and winning the match against Kolkata Knight Riders(ANI )

"Keep believing, that was the real key today," Buttler said in the post-match presentation after his hundred helped Rajasthan Royals equal the highest ever IPL chase on Tuesday. “At times, I felt like I was struggling a bit for rhythm. I've been watching golf and I saw a guy called Max Homa. Anytime the negative thoughts come, I think the complete opposite and dare to dream. That's what kept me going.”

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This myth-crafting bravado isn’t recently acquired though. Buttler always had a reputation of playing long innings in T20, a tactic rarely praised unless his strike rates have been through the roof. The advantage of playing a long innings however is that it allows a batter to break down the target into smaller, easily achievable targets. Royals needed Buttler to transform 96 from 36 balls to a more gettable 28 from 12 balls but for that he also had to survive first.

This is where the batting bit of Buttler’s hundred wasn't entirely unexpected. But it was also not inevitable against Kolkata Knight Riders on a deceptively two-paced pitch with spongy bounce, that too when Buttler was returning from an injury that had kept him out of the previous game. Entering as an impact-sub, inching to 42 off 34 balls, the last 21 deliveries yielding only 22, Buttler was practically ticking every box that has fetched anchor-type batting a bad reputation in T20. And Buttler knows how it feels.

“At times you feel frustrated or you are questioning yourself,” he said. “I was trying to tell myself I'd be okay, 'keep going, you'll get your rhythm back and try to stay calm.'There's been plenty of times throughout the IPL, you've seen crazy things happen. Guys like Dhoni and Kohli, the way they stay till the end and keep believing, you've seen it so many times in the IPL and I was trying to do the same.”

This is where established narratives and convenient predictions started getting the stick. Four fours off Varun Chakravarthy’s 15th over was a nice warmup to the carnage Buttler started unleashing on KKR. Rovman Powell did his bit, scoring 26 off 13 but Royals were still left to get 46 from 18 balls and just three tailenders to support Buttler. Bevan's eyes were visibly scanning the ground for gaps in the field, his eyes intermittently glancing to the giant scoreboard to stay abreast of the requirements.

Mitchell Starc bowled full and straight but Buttler cleared his front leg to lift him over the boundary rope before hooking him over short fine-leg for a four. Harshit Rana was summoned for the next over but Buttler pre-empted his slower balls, clobbering a length delivery for a six, muscling a yorker-length ball for a four before picking the short ball early and taking Rana to the cleaners with a huge six.

With Buttler hitting the final runs, Royals had ultimately added 103 after the fall of their sixth wicket—the highest in a winning cause in the IPL. If Buttler’s first 42 runs came off 34 balls, his next 65 came off only 26, that too when he had started turning down singles because he was literally hobbling. It still didn’t impede Royals’ cause as Buttler struck at over 240 in the last six overs, more than making up for his 104.76 strike rate in the middle overs. Yet there can be no denying that Buttler couldn’t have switched on that assault mode had he not taken the game to the wire in the first place.

"That's something Kumar Sangakkara has told me a lot—there's always a little breaking point,” said Buttler. “The worst thing you can do when you are not feeling your best is to fight it and try to force the issue and give your wicket away. He just tells me to stay there and at some point, the momentum will change or you'll find your rhythm or one shot will get you going. That's been a big part of my play over the last few years—try to stay the course and not get in my own way.”

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