England skipper Jos Buttler questions his decision to field first in latest loss
England captain Jos Buttler took his share of the blame for a historically bad defeat against South Africa, accepting he made a mistake by fielding first in the oppressive heat and humidity of Mumbai.
Things could hardly have gone worse for the defending champions, whose World Cup campaign is rapidly disappearing over the cliff edge after three losses in four, with the Proteas running away with a 229-run win.
That was England’s heaviest ever defeat by run margin, while South Africa’s score of 399 for seven was a second undesired record.
The bowling was chaotic and expensive, the team selection brave but unsuccessful and the batting hopelessly underpowered by comparison to what came before it.
But all of it stemmed from Buttler’s decision to send the opposition in under fiercely exacting conditions, with the temperature peaking at 36 degrees and exacerbated by high humidity.
“I think you always reflect after games and question your decisions,” Buttler said.
“With hindsight, with the physicality of that innings, potentially batting first would have been a better decision. It’s a decision I took at the time. I thought it was the right one and I still believe if we were chasing 340, 350, we would have done really well in those conditions.
“Physically it was a really demanding innings and, like I said, it makes you question maybe in those kind of conditions whether batting first may have been the right call at the toss.”
Buttler has had to front up after a hat-trick of unimpressive outings so far, with a nine-wicket hammering by New Zealand and a shock defeat at the hands of unfancied Afghanistan already on the ledger.
On each occasion he has aimed for an unemotional assessment but accepts England are now almost out of wriggle room, an awkward place to be with almost a month of travelling left and five group matches remaining.
“It certainly leaves us in a tough position. There’s no room for error from here on in,” he acknowledged.
“It’s going to be incredibly difficult. We haven’t left ourselves any margin from this point in. But we’ll keep the belief. We’ll sit down and go again. That’s all you can do in this situation.
“I think it’s obvious that we’re not performing to our best. It’s my job as captain, along with the rest of the team, to work out how we can get back to playing that brand of cricket, playing to our potential and getting back to our best.
“It certainly won’t be anyone giving up or having those kind of thoughts. We’ll just have to dust ourselves down and stick our chests out and go again.”
Heinrich Klaasen celebrated an outstanding 109 in just 67 balls for South Africa and was also floored on several occasions by the same exacting circumstances which made it hard for England’s bowlers.
“I had to dig really, really deep there. I didn’t have any energy left,” he said.
“My partner Marco (Jansen) played a big part of that. He told me that he’s got me and that I’m not allowed to walk off the field if I don’t score 100.
“It was like just breathing in hot air. Every time you try to run it’s just sapping more and more energy and then at the end of the day your body just doesn’t want to work with you anymore. It was just like almost running in a sauna for the whole innings.
“But you’ve got to dig deep for your country as well, I’ve worked my whole life for it, so it’s a great moment.”
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