Alastair Cook has given an honest appraisal of Jos Buttler’s start to life as an international cricketer before England’s second Test with Pakistan in Dubai, admitting the longest form of the game remains his wicketkeeper’s “least natural” when it comes to batting.
England will continue to back the 25-year-old in Test cricket, believing his talent as a stroke-player will see him overcome a run of 10 innings without a half-century and a tough Ashes series in which he averaged 15.
Buttler, who ended the summer early by taking a break for mental fatigue, made just 23 of England’s 598 for nine declared in the first innings of the draw in Abu Dhabi last week. But his captain, Cook, saw enough to believe the right-hander’s runs will soon return.
“Jos has had a tough six or seven games with the bat,” conceded Cook, who pushed Buttler up to open in their second innings run chase. “The shots are there but people find out more about you as a Test player and do more research.
“He’s had to go away and think about his game a bit more.
“He finds this format here his least natural; in one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket he knows his method and is still working very hard on that.
“He’s nowhere near the finished article but we know the potential Jos has got and I think you all agree watching him in that 20-odd he looked calm and composed at the crease and looks like he has turned a corner.
“We shouldn’t forget about how well he kept, with 170 overs in his first Test in the subcontinent. He’s contributing there but he knows he has to score runs – that’s what happens when you play for England and people are pushing for your place – but he’s in a good spot and we are behind him.”
England are due to go into the second Test looking to play an unchanged team, with the all-rounder Ben Stokes their only minor doubt. His full participation in training on Wednesday suggested a stomach virus had been overcome but Cook insisted a late decision on his place would be made.
Bad light meant England were thwarted in their hunt for a win last Saturday despite the use of floodlights and the issue could arise once more in the second Test, with the Dubai International Stadium a more enclosed bowl than at Abu Dhabi.
Cook said: “I think the issue does need some clarification. I don’t think anyone has found the solution. People need to decide exactly which way we go.”
Pakistan’s captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, negotiated a tougher line of questioning before the Test, defending the call-up of the spinner Bilal Asif before a verdict on his bowling action is reached. He also discussed the thorny issue of relations with India after talks over their December series were put on hold following a protest at the offices of the Board of Control for Cricket in India on Monday.
The International Cricket Council has withdrawn the Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar from the remaining two one day internationals between India and South Africa in response to the rising tension, while the former fast bowlers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar have also flown home before completing commentary duties on the series.
“I believe politics should be separated from cricket,” said Misbah, whose side are due to take part in the World Twenty20 in India next March. “You don’t want to restrict yourself not to play here and there. We really want to play everywhere and enjoy the game.”
On Asif, initially picked as cover for the returning leg-spinner Yasir Shah, Misbah added: “We think that he is [correct in his action] that is why we have been really supporting him and picking him now. If that would have been an issue for us he would not be here.”
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