Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Article excerpt

Good for Ed Smith. The new national selector can't just rock a fine pair of sunglasses, he can make bold decisions. Though quite how bold it was to pick Jos Buttler, arguably England's most gifted cricketer, is a matter of opinion. It would have been remarkable if one of the world's best players, and a phenomenal striker of a cricket ball, had been left on the sidelines for the Pakistan Tests. Smith has brought an adventurous spirit to this England team, after years of excessive caution.

Buttler has illuminated the Indian Premier League for the Rajasthan Royals, who will be scowling into their Cobra beers after losing their best player. The purists will be saying he is just a white-ball basher, but however you look at it, his IPL run has been extraordinary. He hit five consecutive fifties opening the batting, an IPL record -- three of them being 95, 94 and 81.

And it is clear from seeing the games that his open, sunny nature has an inspirational effect on the younger Indians in his team. One of my favourite Buttler stats is that he broke more or less all schoolboy records at King's College Taunton, notably scoring 227 not out in a 50-over national schools tournament. He is now wonderful to see in action -- one of the few batsmen in the world you would drop everything to watch, along with Kohli, A.B. de Villiers, and maybe Kane Williamson. To his great credit, Smith has given him free rein to play his natural game: to treat the Test like a white-ball match.

Lord's next week is the place to be. I think it is a great pity James Vince won't be playing -- he scored an unbeaten double hundred for Hampshire the other day -- and is a treat at the crease once he has managed to avoid nicking to the slip cordon. Mark Stoneman can think he is pretty lucky still to be playing, and I would like to see Surrey's Ben Foakes given a chance, though it's not as if England are short of wicket keepers/batsmen. …

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