The sun is still shining on England, and Jos Buttler promises to ‘turn up and adapt’

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Like ointment on an angry rash, Jos Buttler seemed to calm England nerves at Edgbaston on Friday.

The gentle voice, the ready smile, the warm words, all were in marked contrast to Jonny Bairstow‘s bristling performance the previous day.

While Bairstow painted the picture of a team besieged by anxiety and paranoia, Buttler’s was one of a side which was focused yet relaxed. And while Bairstow appeared concerned about pitches, pundits and pressure, Buttler gave an impression of a man who was phlegmatic about pretty much everything.

Worried about the surfaces, Jos? “Whatever conditions we encounter, we have to turn up and adapt on the day,” he replied.

“We wouldn’t have been able to win the number of games we have, home and away, if we weren’t adaptable. That’s a skill of this team, to adapt and still play a way we want to do”

Jos Buttler doesn’t think England are flat-track bullies

Feel the nation is against you, Jos? “Walking down the street, people wish you well,” he said. “Guys hang out of vans to wish you good luck. It seems everyone has been really behind the team and wanting us to do well.”

Pressure starting to tell, Jos? “You talk about pressure,” he said with a smile. “But pressure is a privilege sometimes. We’re in a very privileged position to be in this situation.”

He’s right, of course. England know that if they win their next four matches, they will be World Cup winners. Yes, they have to beat the team which is now rated the best in the world. But it is a chance to show how good they are on the biggest stage of all. It is the stuff they dreamed of when playing in parks and gardens as boys. It’s exactly the situation in which every top sportsperson should want to be.

It would have been wrong to presume Bairstow’s comments reflected the general mood of the team. In person, Bairstow is hugely likeable: modest; approachable; engaging. But, in an interview situation, he can seem prickly and chippy. He is, after all, the man who roared at everyone and no-one following his century as a Test No. 3 in Colombo. The man who seems to need to invent adversaries so he can prove them wrong. The man whose childhood involved tragedy that has, no doubt, had an influence on making him the man he is. Those who know him largely laughed off his comments on Thursday with a sigh of ‘That’s Jonny’, though Michael Vaughan criticised a “negative, pathetic mindset”.

Bairstow was not the only one in the England set-up appalled by Kevin Pietersen’s suggestion, made on Twitter, that Eoin Morgan was backing away from Mitchell Starc in trepidation. But while others dismissed them with a rueful shrug about Pietersen’s habit of burning every bridge that might be crossed, Bairstow felt the need to defend a captain who is deeply respected in the England dressing room. It was clumsily done and ultimately unhelpful. But it was probably well intentioned.

Still, it is important that England remain in their bubble. They need to block out the distraction and the detractors and recover the positive mindset that helped them enjoy such success. They need to adapt to conditions as they encounter them and not resent or resist that challenge. And they need to remember they are the only team in the world to play every format of the game in front of full house crowds. Never for a moment should they doubt the support they receive.

Buttler did have one minor quibble with the media representation of this England team. He felt the characterisation of them as flat-track bullies was both harsh and simplistic. And he probably has a point.

“That’s something which maybe we haven’t been given enough credit for,” he said. “When you have flat pitches and records are broken, it’s a very obvious thing to say this is the way the team plays.

“But we wouldn’t have been able to win the number of games we have, home and away, if we weren’t adaptable. That’s a skill of this team, to adapt and still play a way we want to do. Going to Sri Lanka last winter… not many teams win there. We’ve faced stronger teams but we overcame conditions.”

There was ertainly no sign of any great tension at England training on Friday. Even though the boss – Ashley Giles, the managing director of the men’s teams – arrived to survey the scene, he seemed only to urge relaxation and enjoyment. There were backslaps and smiles and a long game of football before the more serious training began. You would never have guessed they were a team on the brink of elimination at an agonisingly early stage. And that, no doubt, is a good sign.

There were other encouraging developments for England at training on Friday too. For a start, Jason Roy batted for some time without any sign of discomfort. While it is hard to believe he is 100% fit, England do look set to pick him so long as they can be confident his hamstring problem will not reoccur. James Vince, whose star has fallen sharply in recent days, may have played his final international match. Whether fair or not, his performances in this tournament have done his Ashes chances no good.

And while Jofra Archer did not bowl, he did take part in fielding practice, football and shuttle runs. He must still be considered a doubt, but he still has a chance of playing. Adil Rashid bowled in the nets, too, and looks set to play.

Most of all, though, there was the sunshine. It was 25 degrees for a while on Friday and will be 30 on Saturday. This new pitch, left uncovered throughout the day, will grow harder and faster and is not expected to turn by those who work and play here most often. It may well be the sort of surface we expected to see much more of ahead of the tournament. The sort where a score of 350 is tough to defend. The sort upon which England have enjoyed a lot of success.

Whether you really want to play a side containing Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma on a fine batting pitch is debatable. But England have won nine international matches in succession at this ground. They are back in conditions where they are comfortable and dangerous. Yes, they have made life far tougher for themselves than might have been the case. But their tournament isn’t over just yet.

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