Jos Buttler implored his England team to be “braver” after “timid” performances with the bat in their first two T20 internationals against India, Matthew Mott has revealed.
England were bowled out for 148 and 121 in Buttler’s first two matches as their full-time limited-overs captain on Thursday and Saturday, losing by 50 and 49 runs respectively. Mott, their new white-ball coach, admitted they had been taken aback by the “ferocity” of India’s new attacking gameplan.
Buttler addressed his squad after the second defeat in Birmingham on Saturday night and told them they should be “prepared to make some mistakes” rather than batting too cautiously. The response was a total of 215 for 6 batting first at Trent Bridge on Sunday, their highest T20I score since February 2020 and one which they defended by a margin of 17 runs despite Suryakumar Yadav’s brilliant 117.
“We learned a lot of lessons in the first two games,” Mott said. “India obviously came out with a really attacking mindset and put us under pressure a lot. We expected that, but the ferocity of it took us by surprise a little bit.
“After the second loss and the series loss, I thought he [Buttler] spoke exceptionally well in the group about these being the times where you learn about character. It’s easy when you’re dominating teams but we’re going to learn more about ourselves playing great teams like India and South Africa leading into a World Cup – we’re going to learn more about what we need in Australia when we’re put under pressure.
“We talked about just being a bit braver. If anything, we could have been accused of being a bit timid with the bat. [On Sunday] we just went out there and thought, ‘it’s a great wicket, let’s put a score out there and hang on.’ We don’t like losing but I think there is plenty that we’ve taken out of this series already and it sets us up well for the summer.”
England were without several first-choice players throughout the series including Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who have been pencilled in at No. 3 and 4 respectively for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. But, if he is available, Stokes could alternatively be used lower down in a finishing role, with Dawid Malan’s 77 off 39 balls on Sunday serving a reminder of his credentials after an early reprieve when Harshal Patel dropped a caught-and-bowled chance.
Malan’s innings was his first T20I half-century in a year and came after a scratchy innings of 19 off 25 on Saturday. His attacking intent early in his innings was a notable departure from his usual template: “Malan was unbelievable,” Mott said. “In the last game he wasn’t that happy with the way he got going and he worked really hard this morning. He played a special innings.”
Mott expects to have something approaching a full-strength squad available for the three T20Is against South Africa from July 27-31. They will be the final games England play before naming their T20 World Cup squad in mid-September, immediately before they travel to Pakistan for a seven-match series – though some multi-format players will be rested for that tour.
“I don’t think [the World Cup squad] is all locked in yet,” Mott said. “This far out, you’ve got so many things that could happen – whether it’s injuries or form, or whatever. We’ve got a fair idea of what we think the right make-up is, but you want players to come in and perform and really warrant that spot. It’s still open for a lot of players and that’s why we are having looks at different combinations and trying to learn.”
Mott also took positives from England’s death bowling, which has been a problem area over the last two years. “It was an unbelievable experience for some of those bowlers,” he said. “[Reece] Topley was magnificent and [Richard] Gleeson has been a real find for us. All the intel that I’ve had is that it’s definitely been an area that we’re looking to improve, so to be under that sort of pressure and hold our nerve gives us a lot of confidence.”
England will welcome Stokes, Bairstow, Joe Root and Craig Overton into their squad for this week’s ODI series against India, which starts on Tuesday at the Kia Oval. “They’re obviously world-class players,” Mott said. “As a coach, it’s a great opportunity to learn from probably some of the best players in this format of all-time.
“They’ll bring some energy into the group and they’re really excited to be there. I don’t think they’ll have to change a hell of a lot from the way they’ve been playing but it’s a slightly different format. They come in pretty hot and we’re straight into it: that’s the modern game. We’ll see how everyone pulls up.”