Jos Buttler’s talent was evident during a youth cricket career when the 17-year-old hit an unbeaten 227, including 25 fours and eight sixes, in a school match.
But the history of the game is littered with tales of youthful prodigies who never made an impact at senior level.
That cannot be said of Buttler, whose batting exploits in the UAE have been behind 50-over world champions England’s push for the T20 World Cup title.
The 31-year-old’s power and audacious shotmaking, born of natural ball sense, were on show in an unbeaten 71 off 32 balls during England’s victory over arch-rivals Australia.
But he showed another side to his game, however, with a maiden T20I century against Sri Lanka as he joined a select group of cricketers to have made hundreds in all three international formats – Tests, ODIs and T20Is.
Yet, on a slow pitch where timing was difficult, Buttler scored just 24 runs from his first 30 balls against Sri Lanka.
Buttler, however, upped his tempo with 77 runs from his next 37 balls to finish with an unbeaten 101 that was key to another England win.
England teammate Dawid Malan, until recently top of the ICC’s T20I batting rankings, said Buttler was operating on a different level.
“Jos, when he gets going, is an absolute freak,” said Malan ahead of England’s game against South Africa on Saturday. “You don’t know where to bowl to him. You bowl a full length and he hits it for six, you bowl short and he hits you for six.”
Buttler, however, is trying to ignore all the praise.
“Probably the most pleasing thing for me is to play back-to-back knocks and they were quite different innings as well,” he told The Times. “Sometimes the younger version of me would play one good innings, then get a bit lazy and live off it for a bit.
“I think as I have got older, I’ve realised that once you’ve played a good innings, it’s gone, it’s history. You’ve got to try to replicate it and do it again.”
In Dubai, the wicketkeeper-batter smashed Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc for two huge consecutive sixes. And yet, for all his obvious ability, Buttler has a mere two hundreds from 53 Tests, with a modest batting average of 33.33.
To his credit, he has not stopped trying to crack Test cricket, and after this tournament he will head to Australia in a bid to help Joe Root’s men regain the Ashes.
Buttler, often asked why he does not bat in the same way in Tests as in white-ball games, said: “I don’t think it’s possible. The value of your wicket is different, isn’t it? The ball moves, there are slips in place, it’s generally a lot harder.
“The main thing is the mindset, that fearlessness and demeanour at the crease; if I could take that into my red-ball batting that would be a real positive.”
© Agence France-Presse