IPL 2018: Jos Buttler steps up again, Rajasthan Royals do the double vs Mumbai Indians

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IPL 2018: Jos Buttler steps up again, Rajasthan Royals do the double vs Mumbai Indians

Written by Bharat Sundaresan
| Mumbai |

Updated: May 14, 2018 1:15:40 pm

Jos Buttler scored 94* against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium Jos Buttler scored 94* off 53 balls — his fifth 50-plus score on the trot. (Source: BCCI)

A bitter lesson
Jos Buttler put Sourav Ganguly to shame when it comes to bare-bodied celebrations following last year’s IPL final with a video that left little to the imagination. In it, a delighted Buttler ends up losing his towel and doing a virtual full Monty as he jumps around his living room in England celebrating his franchise Mumbai Indians’ dramatic win in Hyderabad. It’s perhaps the closest a cricketer has come to an “oops” wardrobe malfunction on camera, even if Buttler was smart enough to cover up most of his vital parts with a carefully placed blue smudge over the towel-drop.

On Sunday, Buttler returned to his former IPL home ground. He kept his clothes on but ended up putting his former team’s title defence in jeopardy with yet another stunning assault from the top of the order. His 53-ball 94 saw Rajasthan Royals cruise to their target of 169 with two overs to spare. And like is the case with most Buttler assaults, the ball kept flying into the stands routinely and rapidly. Buttler’s ball-striking is a lot like his celebrations. He doesn’t leave anything behind. There are no half measures. Few batsmen produce shots that are as unadulterated in terms of power and conviction as the English power hitter. That he does so with very limited back-lift only goes to show just how strong his forearms are which, if you focus on the less controversial parts of his video from last year, are rather apparent. While Buttler has created an aura around himself as being the unorthodox version of a 360-degree batsman — an exclusive ilk that so far only has AB de Villiers as the other member — his six-hitting is generally concentrated in more orthodox areas, the region between long-on and deep mid-wicket with the occasional strike inside-out over point.

Like four of the five he struck on Sunday. Of course, you wouldn’t expect Buttler to not walk across his stumps and look to be cheeky, and he did attempt the scoop on a number of occasions here with measured success. But his major focus was on targeting the shorter boundaries in front of the wicket, and when he decided to clear them, he succeeded almost always. This was his fifth consecutive half-century as an opener this season. The IPL, or the Rajasthan Royals to be specific, might have given England their new T20 opener. And it’s learnt that even Eoin Morgan, England’s highly successful skipper in white-ball cricket, is now backing Buttler to play a similar role for his national team later this summer.

It makes sense too. While Buttler has generally been used as a game-changer in the middle order for England, he made an unbeaten 73 off 49 balls in his only knock as an opener two years ago. Surprisingly, that’s the only time in 61 T20I innings that Morgan & Co have opted for him at the top of the order. Expect that to change in a hurry.

Bounces into submission
This topic has been spoken of before but if you needed another reminder of just why both England and West Indies are jostling for Jofra Archer in their ranks, you just had to see the final ball of yet another impressive spell in this IPL. It was a bouncer that flew past the towering Ben Cutting’s nose at 147 kph and all the Australian all-rounder could do was sway out of the way and put himself out of harm’s way. This was the 18th over of Mumbai’s innings, a time where all bets are off and every ball needs to be hit over the boundary. But such was the quality of the bouncer that even Cutting could do little but just pay his respects to it.

That wasn’t the only quality short ball Archer produced in his spell of 2/16 in four overs. There were two back-to-back ones that stunned the Mumbai crowd in his second over, as he sent back Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma one after the other. Now, both Yadav and Sharma are very adept at playing the short ball. But the direction, pace and intent in these deliveries meant that they could never be in control of their attempted hook and pull shots, and ended up offering Jaydev Unadkat straightforward catches at long-leg — even if the second one knocked him to the ground due to how rapidly it came at him. The double-strike derailed Mumbai’s momentum, and they never quite recovered before Buttler returned home to ruin their party in a more censored fashion.

Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 168/6 in 20 overs (Evin Lewis 60 off 42 balls with 4 fours and 4 sixes, Suryakumar Yadav 38 off 31 balls with 7 fours, Hardik Pandya 36 off 21 balls with 3 fours and 2 sixes; Jofra Archer 2/16, Ben Stokes 2/26) lost to Rajasthan Royals 171/3 in 18 overs (J Buttler 94* off 53 balls with 9 fours and 5 sixes, Ajinkya Rahane 37 of 36 balls with 4 fours, Sanju Samson 26 off 14 balls with 2 fours and four sixes; Hardik Pandya 2/52) by seven wickets.

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