Jos Buttler sees plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of England’s defence of their World Cup crown in India later this year despite losing another ODI series.
Twin defeats against South Africa in Bloemfontein meant England’s 59-run victory in Kimberley was a mere consolation, with the 50-over world champions now winless in their last four series.
While there have been caveats during that run, with several stars absent against the Proteas, there were some standout performances in the series as Jason Roy, Dawid Malan and Buttler all made hundreds.
While Buttler reflected ruefully on chucking away a winning position in the series opener, he feels England are shaping up well for the World Cup in the autumn.
“There are lots of things to be really pleased about and some players are still to come back,” said Buttler, whose side travel to Bangladesh next month for a limited-overs series.
“Recent results aside, it’s still a healthy picture.
“We’ve played some brilliant cricket and we should be disappointed that we didn’t win the series. The position we were in in the first ODI, we should go on and win that game.
“But in terms of things you’re looking to get together and build ahead of a World Cup, I think we ticked a lot of boxes. There is that big-picture view as well.”
Archer’s performance in just his second match for England since making his comeback impressed Buttler, with the fast bowler making breakthroughs at critical moments of the game.
The decisive moment came when he prised out Heinrich Klaasen – who put on 85 in 54 balls with Wayne Parnell to leave South Africa needing 69 off the last 63 deliveries – with the hosts then subsiding.
“Jofra’s performance was outstanding,” said England’s white-ball captain. “Every time you turned to him to try and take a wicket, he managed to do that.
“The game was probably in the balance there during the partnership with Klaasen and Parnell so for Jofra to come back and pick up that wicket straight away was fantastic.”
South Africa were all out for 287 in response to England’s 346 for seven, a total swelled by a 232-run stand in 211 balls from centurions Buttler and Malan, rescuing the tourists from 14 for three.
“We tried to bat time really, a bit old school, knowing we’d then have the gears to clear the ropes,” said Buttler. “From the position we were in, to post 340 is a fantastic effort.”
After Malan departed for 118, Moeen Ali made an important cameo of 41 off 23 balls, which included an odd one-handed reverse slap that he missed completely.
“I thought his hand slipped but he was telling me he actually did try to hit it one-handed,” said Buttler, who top-scored with 131. “Maybe that’s where the game’s going, he’s an innovator.”