Buttler upbeat amid England woes, addresses Kookaburra conundrum
Jos Buttler spoke candidly on the prospect of introducing the much-maligned Kookaburra ball to English shores after a chastening day in the field left England on the brink of first Test defeat in Mount Maunganui.
England’s self-professed mission over the coming years in Test cricket is to achieve the ‘Holy Grail’ of regaining the urn in an Ashes series down under.
A feat hard enough by itself will be made all the more difficult when Jimmy, Stuart, Jofra and co. wrap their fingers around the barely-noticeable seam of the preferred Kookaburra ball in Australia.
The current New Zealand series has been seen by some as an ideal way for England’s seamers to get reacquainted with the Kookaburra, but it’s fair to say things have not gone to plan thus far.
BJ Watling’s epic double hundred and Mitch Santner’s maiden Test century lifted the Kiwis to 615 for nine declared and a first-innings lead of 262 on the penultimate day in Mount Maunganui, where England closed on 55 for three.
A slow surface has conspired against England’s bowlers but this is the fifth time in their last 16 overseas Tests they have conceded 600 or more, and they have often seemed short on ideas when the Kookaburra loses its shine.
In an effort to give themselves the best chance of succeeding against Australia and elsewhere, it was put to Buttler that it may be beneficial to use the Kookaburra when playing at home or even in county cricket.
But Buttler said: “I don’t think so. Test cricket with a Duke’s ball in England is fantastic; it’s very watchable, it’s a good contest between bat and ball.
“The product we have with Test cricket in England is up there with the best product in the world so I wouldn’t want to tamper with that very much.
“One thing potentially we can do in England is play on better batting wickets. We can look at playing, especially in county cricket, on better batting wickets. There’s some education for all of us as batters.”
Watling has shown England the blueprint of how to thrive on the Bay Oval wicket with a diligent 205 spanning 473 balls and more than 11 hours as the tourists were kept in the field for 201 overs.
He put on a New Zealand record 261 for the seventh wicket alongside Santner, who followed up his 126 by removing England openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns and nightwatchman Jack Leach in a late three-wicket burst.
Buttler aimed the blame for England’s predicament – they almost certainly need to bat the entire day just to escape with a draw – squarely at the batsmen after a total of 353 all out was shown to be insignificant by New Zealand.
Buttler said: “It was a very tough day. We tried most things and put a lot of effort in for not much reward. That’s tough Test cricket.
“You can’t fault the bowlers’ efforts. I thought the effort was outstanding.
“New Zealand played a very patient game with the bat and showed us really how that patient game of batting on flat wickets and setting your sights very high.
“Watling and Santner really set the stall out and batted a long time and put a lot of overs into our legs and built that score. That’s a big learning point for us.”
Asked how far England are from where they want to be, Buttler added: “It’s not miles away but I think it’s a bit of a way away.
“You have to learn to be able to do it, you have to do it a few times to show you can play that style consistently and perform in that manner consistently. That’s the aim of the group, that’s where we want to get to.”
While Santner enjoyed one of the best days of his career, he could have an even greater influence on the final day, with England still 207 in arrears.
He said: “There’s a big job to do. It’s not going to be easy to get seven wickets on that. We have to stick to the long game and go from there.
“It’s nice to get a lead and hopefully spin a bit of a web.”
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