IF JASON Roy doesn’t get you, Jonny Bairstow must.
If Jonny Bairstow doesn’t get you, Alex Hales must.
If Alex Hales doesn’t get you, Joe Root must.
If Joe Root doesn’t get you…
Can you see where I’m going?
No matter the challenge, conditions or match situation, it seems that England invariably have someone who steps up to the mark in one-day cricket.
Series victories such as this will count for little if England have a disappointing World Cup, just as they had a disappointing Champions Trophy when all is said and done, despite their progress to the last four.Chris Waters
Yesterday that man was Jos Buttler, whose unbeaten 100 from the No 6 position was the difference as England took the one-day series 3-0 with two games to play.
Brilliantly supported by No 8 Chris Woakes, who hit an undefeated 53, Buttler biffed, bashed and finessed England to a total of 302-6 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
When Buttler and Woakes were pitted together, England were labouring on 189-6 with 11.5 of their 50 overs remaining.
That they could still reach a competitive score and ultimately prevail was testament to their firepower and flexibility, with Woakes, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid then each taking two wickets as Australia came up short on 286-6.
England’s latest win – after victories in Melbourne and Brisbane – was even more impressive given that they were a bowler down after Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett limped off with yet another injury early in Australia’s chase, this time a left hamstring problem.
So what did captain Eoin Morgan do?
He simply tossed the ball to Test captain Root, who filled in with 8.4 overs of part-time off-spin as Morgan manipulated his bowling pieces with all the skill of a chess grandmaster.
By rights, it should really have been Root who made a century on a day when he celebrated his 100th one-day international appearance.
The Yorkshireman managed 27 before being bowled by Josh Hazlewood, which brought Buttler to the crease with the score 107-4.
Initially circumspect, Buttler played the situation intelligently before accelerating strongly towards the finish.
He reached his fifth one-day international hundred from the final ball of the innings, his 83rd faced, with his second fifty having taken just 32 deliveries.
Woakes was barely less impressive in a rapid half-century as England revealed their strength in depth.
Truly, this is a side positively mushrooming with match-winners – even without dear old Ben Stokes, whose impending return will mean that someone is unfortunate indeed to make way for his presence.
That man will not be Buttler, who is one of the main reasons why England will be strongly fancied on home soil at next year’s World Cup.
The Lancashire man is a curious hybrid of a batsman/racquet player rolled into one, attacking like Garry Sobers one minute and Roger Federer the next.
Buttler is as likely to play a forehand smash over mid-on as an authentic drive and has a remarkable range of attacking strokes.
Although it would be stretching it to say that he could launch a yorker for six anywhere on the ground, it would perhaps not be stretching it too much for this is a man with almost superhuman gifts.
“The best win we’ve ever had,” he declared at the post-match presentation ceremony, “because of the way that we were challenged”.
Buttler’s sentiments were echoed by Morgan, who described it as “probably our best win as a group to date”.
This was a great win precisely because England were challenged and because the match was in the balance right until the end. Indeed, if England are to build on last year’s Champions Trophy semi-final finish and go all the way at next year’s World Cup, it was exactly the sort of challenge that they will need to overcome in the all-important knockout stages.
Morgan’s men do not want to become like their football counterparts, sweeping all before them in preliminary games only to come a cropper in the major tournaments.
Series victories such as this will count for little if England have a disappointing World Cup, just as they had a disappointing Champions Trophy when all is said and done, despite their progress to the last four.
For now, however, it sure feels good to beat the Aussies, as Bairstow implied after England eased the pain of their 4-0 Ashes defeat.
“What a performance from the boys!” he tweeted. “Feels blooming awesome after a tough couple of months! @josbuttler take a bow @root66 congrats on the 100th Cap!!”
And so the show rolls on to Adelaide and Perth, where the matches may only be of academic interest, just like the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, but with Morgan promising no let-up from the cock-a-hoop tourists. Whitewash, anyone?
You wouldn’t bet against it.
And, as every Englishman knows, that would leave the score this winter standing at Australia 4 England 5.