Jos Buttler underlines Test class with England rescue act before bowlers take over

England’s Jos Buttler hooks a six during the fifth Test between England and India at the Oval. (AP)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Jos Buttler underlines Test class with England rescue act before bowlers take over

LONDON: Jos Buttler says he has found a “nice balance and good mentality” after he offered further proof of his progress in Test cricket with a third fifty in four innings.
Celebrating his 28th birthday in style on Saturday, Buttler top-scored with 89 to take England to a competitive total of 332 all out in their first innings of the fifth Test against India at the Oval, having come in when they were reeling at 171 for five.
The big-hitting batsman was pigeon-holed as a limited-overs specialist until national selector Ed Smith took a punt, recalling him to the Test side this season after 18 months out of the team.
Buttler has not looked back since, becoming one of the most vital cogs in the England batting line-up.
In the two-Test series against Pakistan earlier this season, he was top-scorer for England with an average of more than 80.
He now has 349 runs in the current series against the top-ranked Indians — nearly 100 runs ahead of the next-highest England run-scorer, Sam Curran.
Buttler batted carefully against some searching seam bowling on Friday but stepped up the tempo on the second day under cloudy skies, smashing two sixes.
So what has changed for the Lancashire man?
“I have found a nice balance and good mentality about the game,” said Buttler, adding that his success had given him confidence.
“I’ve got a good perspective and have been practicing really well. I think that’s been a good thing and the consistency and preparation and probably the hunger to turn up and try hard again and continue good form.
“I think that’s been a big thing for me this year in all formats of the game.”
Buttler, playing his 25th Test, said he would describe his return more as a “second or third coming” than a breakthrough.
“I’ve just enjoyed my cricket. I spoke about the first time I got recalled at Lord’s (against Pakistan in May).
“It was an unbelievable opportunity to come back in and play and the fire was really burning for Test cricket.”
And he said he was comfortable with the different demands of Test cricket, willing to graft and then able to change gear when required.
“People have said to me you should play the way you do in white-ball (limited-overs) cricket in red-ball cricket,” he said.
“I’ve never really seen it like that. I’ve never felt comfortable just to go out and play shots.”
Former England captain Michael Atherton said Buttler had been the man of the summer for the home side.
“Buttler, recalled at the start of the summer, has been England’s man of the summer — he’s played beautifully throughout,” he said.
“He really puts the fear into the opposition because of how destructive he can be with the tail.”
Smith, the national selector, recalled the talented batsman to Test duty in his first squad announcement as England’s new national selector in May, to face Pakistan.
He was adamant Buttler would prove to be the “right player at the right time” and bring unique qualities to the team.
Buttler, who kept wicket for England in the fourth Test against India in Southampton, holds the record for England’s fastest-ever one-day hundred — off 46 balls against Pakistan in 2015.
He has also made a huge splash in Twenty20 cricket, becoming one of the biggest stars in the cash-rich Indian Premier League.
But over the English summer Buttler has emphatically demonstrated he belongs in the longest form of the game.
He has been the top scorer in four out of England’s past five innings and scored his first Test century in the third match of the current series in Nottingham.
In Buttler, England have the ideal man to anchor the lower middle order. Now their challenge is to find some consistency at the top.


Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

City were humbled by French side Lyon in Manchester. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

  • City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign

MANCHESTER, England: If Manchester City wants to finally win a first Champions League title, it will have to start taking the competition a bit more seriously — on and off the field.
Surrounded by swathes of empty seats in the Etihad Stadium, City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign on Wednesday.
Banned from the touchline and unable to communicate with the bench, City manager Pep Guardiola did fill one seat in the stands and he saw his Premier League champions easily picked apart by the French visitors.
“We felt under threat every time we lost the ball and sometimes that brings the confidence a little bit lower,” said City assistant manager Mikel Arteta, who was in charge on the bench in Guardiola’s absence.
Errors by midfielder Fernandinho led to both Lyon goals, typifying how careless City was against a team that finished third in the French league last season and was even held to a draw at the weekend by 10-man Caen.
When a pass by the Brazilian midfielder was intercepted around the halfway line, Lyon charged forward. Nabil Fekir sent in a cross from the left that evaded Fabian Delph’s swinging legs, allowing Maxwel Cornet to slot it home in the 26th minute. Delph held his head in his hands as the consequences of his mistake became clear.
City’s troubles deepened when Fernandinho was caught in possession again. Memphis Depay set Fekir on a run and the forward doubled Lyon’s lead in the 43rd by striking through the legs of John Stones.
“It was a difficult game,” said Depay, who struggled to make an impact at Manchester United before leaving after two seasons in 2017. “But when we had the ball we tried to play and when we won the ball we tried to counterattack.”
Perhaps the only reason for City to feel aggrieved in the first half was Gabriel Jesus being denied a penalty when he was tripped by former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva just before Depay scored.
“To concede two goals like we did is very frustrating,” Stones said. “We came in at halftime a bit deflated I think. But we picked ourselves up and we came out second half fighting and played a better second half.”
But the improvement wasn’t sufficient.
City pulled one back in the 67th when Bernardo Silva scored from substitute Leroy Sane’s cutback. But the attacking threat was too patchy from a City side that won the Premier League with a record 100 points only four months ago, and are widely seen as one of the big favorites in this season’s Champions League.
“I suffered as I was scared they’d score a second goal,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said. “We would have taken 2-2 before the match but given the way the game went we’d have been disappointed not to leave with the three points.”
With Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk also in Group F, City appeared to have one of the kinder draws but is now playing catch-up.
Celebrating a decade under Abu Dhabi ownership, which allowed City to assemble a squad for more than $1 billion, the Champions League is the one big prize the club has yet to win.
But City fans still have a fraught relationship with Europe’s premier competition.