HE HASN’T always had the easiest time in an England shirt, but the selectors stuck with wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler and he has repaid that faith by starting the tour of New Zealand with a bang.
England had to try alternatives to Craig Kieswetter, who has been left out of the short-form sides, and Buttler showed every sign of taking his chance in the opening Twenty 20 warm-up win yesterday morning.
Buttler is probably not as good with the gloves as Kieswetter but he is by no means bad behind the wicket, and his 57 off 24 balls against a New Zealand XI underlined his explosive batting potential.
The opposition are not the best – the Black Caps are professional and well organised but lack the three or four brilliant individuals of England – so the next few weeks are a golden chance for him to impress.
Buttler will have his eye firmly on a place in the team for the 50-over Champions Trophy in England this summer. Test recognition may have to wait as I don’t think he is technically ready for the five-day game.
While his excellent display did not surprise me much, I was hugely encouraged to see fast-bowler Stuart Broad return in such emphatic fashion from the injury that limited his action in the winter tour of India.
The captain bowled with good pace, showed no signs of his recent heel problem and, by claiming a late hat-trick in England ‘s 46-run victory, showed he has not lost his knack of getting the ball in the right place.
Broad is very important in all forms for England – when he plays well they invariably do too – and Test coach Andy Flower will be just as hopeful as one-day and T20 boss Ashley Giles that he stays fit and in form.
Keeping players in peak condition will be on the coaches’ minds, as any injuries now wouldn’t leave too much time for recovery before the two main events of the summer, the Champions Trophy and the home Ashes series. England will surely consider resting seamer James Anderson and Test skipper Alastair Cook when feasible in New Zealand, especially the former as the physical demands on bowlers are more gruelling.
This tour is a chance for some to regain form and others to stake a claim for a regular spot, and I expect England to be too good for New Zealand. I see them winning the T20 series, which starts on Saturday, 3-0 and, if they play as they can, going the whole trip unbeaten.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer. He has also captained and been chairman of Warwickshire.