Jos Buttler knows all too well what it feels like to leave a party early and is desperate to avoid another premature exit at the World Twenty20.
Buttler was on duty in Bangladesh two years ago when England failed to reach the competition’s knockout phase and again when they were humiliated at the group stage of the 2015 World Cup. He now faces the prospect of an unwanted hat-trick after England lost their opening fixture in India amid a torrent of sixes from the West Indies’ Chris Gayle.
Realistically, England must beat South Africa on the same ground today if they are to progress from the Super 10s, and the possible consequences of that match are not lost on the vice-captain.
“Ten months ago at the World Cup was some of the worst feelings I’ve ever had on a cricket field,” said Buttler.
“Whether you’ve played in world tournaments or not, we’ve all had bad experiences in cricket. You learn from them, you move on from them.
“You still come back, dust yourself down and go again.
“We’ll be really focused on that. It’s still a game of cricket, you have the same emotions and the same thought processes but the outcome could potentially be more defining on the tournament. But it’s still 20 overs, it’s still 22 yards, and we’ve got to focus on that and learn from what happened against the West Indies.”
If England are to take lessons from their defeat, they must do so quickly with just one rest day between matches.
At the mid point of the match their score of 182 for six looked competitive, a solid base built around Joe Root’s 48 augmented by some powerful shots down the order.
Buttler himself, promoted to number four, made 30 in just 20 deliveries. Yet it was not quite explosive enough on a batsman’s surface at the Wankhede Stadium.
South Africa have superstars of their own lying in wait, not least AB de Villiers, and Buttler believes England must rise to that standard.
“That’s what you get when you turn up at world tournaments – all the best players in the world in one place,” he said. “It’s great for fans to see these guys perform at one time and we’ve got to have guys who stand up and compete with them.
“We need to produce these players in our side as well if we’re going to go further and win these tournaments.
“With the bat we were probably par at best last time. We were looking more for 200 and needed someone to go on and play that big innings.”
Nobody emerged unscathed from Gayle’s blade in midweek, but arguably the most damaging blows were delivered to Adil Rashid. The Yorkshire leg-spinner came into the tournament with a big billing and a near certainty to bowl his full four overs in every match. But he was withdrawn from the attack after two overs, Gayle having launched him for two colossal sixes down the ground.
“Adil’s been a great performer for us, and he’s been a match-winner,” said Buttler.
“But playing against someone of Gayle’s class, he was going to target him in conditions that probably weren’t in Adil’s favour on a small ground, it’s going to be tough but he’ll dust himself down and come back well. He’s had some good success against South Africa, so he’ll look forward to that.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, meanwhile, is hoping to prey on England’s fear of failure
“If we put England under pressure we’re hoping they’ll almost fall back on that mentality of losing games and not being confident,” said Du Plessis.
“If we were in their shoes and we’d lost that first game we would feel pressure going into the second game knowing if we lose we’d possibly be out.
“They’ll obviously be under pressure. As a team you definitely feel the heat in that moment. It’s such a short tournament you have to hit the ground running.”
Yesterday, Tillakaratne Dilshan led Sri Lanka to a six-wicket win over Afghanistan in their first game of the Super 10 stage. Asghar Stanikzai made a career-best 62 and Samiullah Shenwari smashed 31 from 14 balls as Afghanistan, who qualified ahead of Zimbabwe from Group B, made 153 for seven.
But Dilshan batted through for an unbeaten 83, from 56 balls with eight fours and three sixes, to stave off any threat of an upset.