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England are right to stick with Buttler as T20 opener, stats suggest

:Headline: England are right to stick with Buttler as T20 opener, stats suggest:
Jos Buttler scored a half-century in the series-clinching five-wicket win over South Africa.

Jos Buttler has been assured of a place at the top of England's batting order in Twenty20 cricket – and his statistics suggest that is the right approach.

After Buttler's half-century in the series-clinching five-wicket win over South Africa, white-ball captain Eoin Morgan backed his ability to "take any bowling line-up apart" and pledged to keep using him in an elevated role.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the issues and the numbers relating to Buttler's position.

Morgan's backing

Eoin Morgan, left, hailed Buttler as 'one of our greatest-ever white-ball cricketers' (Mark Kerton/PA)

"He's got unbelievable ability to take any bowling line-up apart – one of our greatest-ever white-ball cricketers," Morgan said of Buttler.

"We need to back guys that have that sort of talent – we know when he delivers, we win games of cricket. I think the priority at the moment is to get the top three (Buttler, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow) as many balls under their belt as they can.

"They're the most destructive players that we have. It's an extremely destructive batting line-up to play against."

Buttler's record by position

Jos Buttler has excelled as an international opener (PA graphic)

Buttler enjoys his strongest international T20 record when playing as an opener, albeit in only nine innings to date.

He averages 42.25 in those games, almost six runs higher than any other position and 16 more than his overall career average in the format, while his strike rate of 162.50 runs per hundred balls is more than 20 runs up on his career mark.

An increased average is to be expected, with the opportunity to bat for longer periods – albeit with a reduced chance of remaining not out – but the difference in strike rate is notable and points to the effectiveness of allowing Buttler to establish himself early on.

He also has four half-centuries to his name in those nine knocks – against Sri Lanka in 2016, Australia and India in 2018 and South Africa on Sunday. That is as many as he has produced in his other 52 T20I innings, which have come between numbers four and seven in the order with 43 of them at either five or six.

His move up to open full-time originated in the Indian Premier League – he was elevated by Rajasthan Royals in May 2018 and announced his arrival with 67 off 26 balls against Delhi Daredevils and five successive half-centuries ranging up to 95 not out to underpin a chase of 177 with a ball to spare to beat Chennai Super Kings.

Three more fifties followed as he averaged almost 39 with a strike rate above 150 in last year's competition and England have felt the benefit.

On the agenda

Buttler's strike rate for the South Africa series was 172.09, making 2019 so far his biggest-hitting year since 2013 – though of course it is early days, with only three innings and one of any substance under his belt.

England will build to October's Twenty20 World Cup, though their outings in the shortest format are limited to three games against Australia in early July and three against Pakistan in August and September.

Away from that, players' domestic commitments will take up the slack – Buttler returns to Rajasthan, along with England colleagues Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Tom Curran, for the IPL from March to May and is contracted to Manchester Originals for the inaugural series of The Hundred, as well as any Vitality Blast games he is available for with Lancashire.

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