Rob Key says “once-in-a-generation” cricketer Jos Buttler is fully deserving of his recall to the England squad for the first Test of the summer against Pakistan.
Buttler last played a Test for England 18 months ago in an innings defeat to India in Chennai but, following an IPL record-equalling run of five consecutive fifties for the Rajasthan Royals, he has been brought back into the England fold for the Lord’s Test starting on May 24, live on Sky Sports.
England vs Pakistan
May 24, 2018, 10:00am
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Key does not think the selection is purely down to Buttler’s fine form, though, suggesting England want to go in a different direction with their batting line-up following winless Test tours of Australia and New Zealand over the winter – the reason why James Vince misses out, despite hitting a double-hundred for Hampshire in the County Championship this week.
“I’m made up with the selection,” Key told Sky Sports Cricket. “I’m not just pleased for Jos, but I think it’s a better side selected than what we saw in the winter, a better batting line-up.
“Jos’ form would have had a little bit to do with it, but I personally think the pick is more to do with the make-up of the team.
England's Jos Buttler has been in stunning form for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, scoring five fifties in a row
“Jonny Bairstow is now probably going to bat at No 5 – there is no doubt he is one of England’s top batsmen – with Joe Root and Dawid Malan moving up to No 3 and 4.
“That’s why Vince has been left out, because you’ve now got a better middle order than we’ve had for a while. Root, Malan, Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Buttler – that’s as good as you’re going to get in English cricket.
“I’d give the gloves to Buttler. If Bairstow keeps – there is no question he wants to, he doesn’t want to give up the gloves – he’s going to have to deal with questions over being tired. Eventually, if this works, I think we’ll end up with Buttler keeping.”
Key also is not concerned by Buttler’s lack of red-ball cricket of late. Since his last Test for England, he has featured in only four first-class matches for Lancashire – averaging just 17.16 – and has played none yet this term, due to his IPL commitments.
England selector Ed Smith says Jos Buttler is 'one of the most outstanding talents in world cricket' upon his Test recall
“We live in a different time now,” added Key. “You can’t expect someone like Buttler to miss out on something like the IPL to play in the first four Championship games of the season – there’s probably only two or three batsmen in nick from the first few rounds of games.
“Ok, he is playing big shots in the IPL, but he still has a technique. He’s not just swinging wildly, he does it from a solid base.
“Personally, I just believe Buttler is a once-in-a-generation cricketer. I know he doesn’t play regular red-ball cricket, but I think he can adapt.
“It’s a brave selection and I think it’s absolutely the right selection.”