Fumbling Buttler finds he has nowhere to hide
Pressure is on the England wicketkeeper to deliver runs today after mistakes that could cost Test and his place in side
Spending the night in your team hotel when it is part of the ground where you are playing, where you can look out of your bedroom and see the place where you have made critical mistakes which are probably going to cost your team the match: cricket was always the cruellest as well as most beautiful of games but this Covid-dictated refinement, of making you spend 24 hours a day at the scene of your misfortune, is a twist worthy of the Marquis de Sade.
Let England supporters hope Jos Buttler does not have restless nights after his three wicketkeeping errors: two of them when Shan Masood had scored 45, and a third – the simplest – when Yasir Shah had scored five. Buttler has scored one century in his 45 Tests. It will take another to erase the effect of his mistakes and give England the sizeable first-innings lead they will need to counter the disadvantage of batting last on a pitch which will misbehave as it is already so dry.
Overall, it was England’s worst day of this abbreviated summer, because Pakistan do not play cricket in the uniform and predictable style that West Indies do, but on Buttler the spotlight will fall because the two mistakes which reprieved Masood were game-changing. Masood had been a walking wicket in England, but has since taken seva eral leaves from the notebook of Pakistan’s batting coach Younis Khan, the master at blocking a bowling attack into submission then blasting it in the second half of his innings.
England’s finest wicketkeepers have had a certain rubberiness, and floppiness. They have been like puppets in that they have been able to flop and leap, jump and dive, twist and turn, as if jerked on a string. Alan Knott, Jack Russell and Ben Foakes have had this physiology, and it has set them apart when standing up to the stumps against spin on a turning or bouncing pitch, which is the litmus test of wicketkeepers.
Buttler has already had a bad Test when keeping to the off-spin of Dom Bess and Joe Root, in Port Elizabeth last winter, and changed his technique so
Another keeper calamity... Buttler fingers: Ben Stokes shows his dismay (left) after England keeper Jos Buttler followed his errors on the first day by dropping Yasir Shah off the bowling of a frustrated Dom Bess (right) that he touched the ground with his gloves when he crouched. At St George’s Park, the challenge was the ball skidding through low; at Old Trafford it has been the ball bouncing abnormally, which is where that physical attribute of floppiness comes in useful because it is all about opening up the hips to catch the ball leaping to either side.
Pakistan’s wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan showed how it should be done when opening up his hips and taking the zipping leg-breaks of