5 The Daily Telegraph Friday 7 August 2020 *** might be, so he can grab it, and be empowered, as the engine of his team. But this is in red-ball cricket: in white-ball internationals there is not enough time for the keeper to keep grabbing the ball and attention, and choreograph his team in the field. Last winter’s nightmare, and this week’s, must have been all the more of a torment for Buttler in that he would be desperate to help Bess, partly because Buttler is the ultimate team man, but not least because Bess plays for Somerset, with whom Buttler has an affinity. The psychological blows that a keeper suffers infect the whole side. And all the time that he stares out of his hotel window, because he was in the England side in Sri Lanka in late 2018 as a specialist batsman, Buttler will remember the impeccable keeping of Foakes, who never missed a chance when standing up to Moeen Ali, Jack Leach and Adil Rashid on pitches designed to help the home side. How Foakes was here, there and everywhere behind and in front of the stumps, hands always soft, leaping and diving, like a supremely prehensile puppet. Yasir at chest-height. Rizwan also let his hands give when the ball hit his gloves, as when catching Joe Root, whereas Buttler’s hands did not give an inch when Yasir outside-edged that chance off Bess. Here is another reason why Test cricket is the supreme format: every single element of a player’s make-up is examined. In some T20 internationals, only half a dozen balls go through to Buttler: his main job is to catch the throw-ins and effect the run-outs. In 50-over internationals, or slogathons of 400 runs per side, again the wicketkeeper has little practice of what a Test keeper has to do – and over the years, as England’s white-ball keeper, Buttler got into the bad habit of not crouching low enough when standing up to the stumps. The key mental component for a wicketkeeper is to want the ball. The goalkeeper goes for the ball in his penalty area; the real wicketkeeper wants the ball wherever in the field it ... how the misery unfolded 1 2 3 4 even more formidable than the bowlers who had almost ruined his Test career. But the Masood who took guard was a different player to the one snared by Anderson in four consecutive innings in 2015. The greatest difference was how Masood’s tinkering brought better balance and, with it, more sagacious judgment outside off stump. Masood was unperturbed by a funereal strike rate. After taking 156 balls over his 50, Masood took only 155 over his next 100 runs and then showed off the improvements in his Twenty20 game against Dom Bess, slog-sweeping a six and then charging down the pitch to launch another two balls later. Here was an innings of magnificent adhesiveness and range, elevating Masood to rare company. No Pakistani opener had scored a century in England since Saeed Anwar in 1996; only three visiting openers in England had hit centuries in the past five seasons. But, most satisfying of all, was how Masood handled his nemesis from four years ago. Masood withstood Anderson for 56 deliveries, playing him much later than in 2016 to adjust to late seam movement. So it was apt that it was against Anderson that Masood produced the clip that brought up his fourth Test century. Masood had displayed the singular trait that is perhaps most important in Test cricket: to learn and grow. As Masood lifted his helmet to reveal a broad grin, his zest for self-improvement had brought catharsis.
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