PAUL NEWMAN: It’s a no-brainer for this transformed England to recall Jos Buttler as Test opener


PAUL NEWMAN: It’s a no-brainer for this transformed England to recall Jos Buttler as Test opener… Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum should turn to the most gifted white-ball batter in their history if Zak Crawley fails again

  • England completed a 3-0 Test series sweep against New Zealand on Monday
  • The team’s approach under new captain Ben Stokes has received huge praise
  • It has led to suggestions that Jos Buttler should return to open the batting 
  • The most gifted batter in their limited-overs history is at the peak of his powers

It sounded ludicrous at first. Jos Buttler to return to the England Test side and open the batting? Did they not try that with Jason Roy not too long ago and see it rebound in their faces?

But it did not take long for a suggestion — that would have been considered stark raving bonkers a month ago — made by Kumar Sangakkara during Sky’s coverage of the final Test against New Zealand to sound inspired.

It is obvious, really. Who else should open the batting for this transformed Test side but the most gifted batter in England’s limited-overs history, now at the peak of his white-ball powers? Of course Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum should look to Buttler.

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There are calls for Jos Buttler to return to England’s Test team under their new captain 

Yes, he has played 57 Tests and only fleetingly displayed those unique gifts before finally being left out, seemingly for the last time, after last winter’s Ashes.

But things are different now. We have long known that Buttler is among Rob Key’s favourite players and one of the first things McCullum did when becoming Test coach was mention Buttler’s name as someone he would love to get involved.

We all assumed he meant as a wicketkeeper-batsman but Ben Foakes did much to nail down his place before a back injury and Covid ruled him out of the final Test and, when he was injured, England first gave the gloves to Jonny Bairstow, then turned to Sam Billlings.

Such is England’s approach that McCullum and Stokes were probably thinking of the opener’s position in the first place. Certainly that is where there will be a vacancy unless Zak Crawley makes a substantial score against India in the Test starting at Edgbaston on Friday. Alex Lees also has a bit to do to convince he is a long-term solution at the top of the order.

The most gifted batter in their limited-overs history is at the peak of his powers

The most gifted batter in their limited-overs history is at the peak of his powers

There would be no better time to bring back Buttler than for the three-Test series against South Africa starting in mid-August, followed by the visit to Pakistan in November.

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Clearly there is no limit to England’s positive intent, while the soft Dukes balls this summer and lack of sideways movement would play to Buttler’s strengths. The pitches in Pakistan, too, will hardly encourage swing and seam.

Of course there is a strong argument to leave Buttler alone to let him do what he does best, particularly as he will now have even more demands on his time when he is confirmed as England’s new one-day and Twenty20 captain. There is more cricket than ever before and multi-format players should, in theory, become rarer rather than the norm.

But that does not fit the out-of-the-box thinking that sees McCullum also want to bring Moeen Ali back to the Test set-up.

If Buttler is keen, then it is a no-brainer. Bring him back and send him out against South Africa at Lord’s on August 17.

At the top of the order.

Edgbaston will turn blue for Bob again on Saturday when the second day of the Test against India will both celebrate the life of the great Bob Willis and, more crucially, raise money to support research into better detection and diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Since its launch last year, the Bob Willis Fund has raised more than £500,000 towards what is hoped will be the introduction of a targeted prostate cancer screening programme in the UK within the next three to five years.

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Red for Ruth for the Ruth Strauss Foundation has become a wonderful feature of Lord’s Tests.

Now Blue for Bob raising crucial funds in the name of one of England’s greatest fast bowlers and pundits is a welcome fixture at Willis’s old home ground.

The arrival of India to complete a Test series that should have ended at Old Trafford last summer is a reminder of how they let down the paying public and Test cricket by pulling out of the final game on the morning of the match.

It was laughable when the cancellation was blamed on Covid concerns and a game India never wanted to play was abandoned when they put the IPL before Test cricket and set a dangerous precedent.

It can only be hoped they regret their actions when they come up against an England side on the crest of a wave and much more likely to square the series now than they were last year.

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