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It was Jos Buttler’s instrumental 76 which saw England get 400 in their first innings on Day 2 AFP

India had beaten England by 95 runs in the second Test, taking a 1-0 lead in a five-Test series. This was their first victory in 28 years at Lord’s. Meanwhile, England’s regular wicketkeeper Matt Prior’s long-standing Achilles heel problem flared up. It eventually turned out to be career-ending, that is, after 79 Tests, 4,099 runs (at over 40), 243 catches, and 13 stumpings. However, for the third Test at The Rose Bowl, England drafted in 24-year-old Jos Buttler. Mind you, England were 0-1 down in their own den. Losing a veteran like Prior at such critical juncture had put them in a spot of bother.

The Rose Bowl track was an absolute featherbed. Gary Ballance and Ian Bell scored long and tiresome hundreds. Before that, Alastair Cook had missed his hundred by mere 5 runs. They played conventional cricket. Runs came at snail’s pace. Barring Sam Robson, the top-order kept the scorers busy, but not to the extent that they could not afford a casual yawn. All the same, the onus of giving the finishing touch was on England’s middle-order. But Joe Root and Moeen Ali could gather only 3 and 12 respectively. It was second session of Day Two. Bell was still at the crease, with England at 420 for 5.

Live Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 4th Test at Mumbai

A declaration was on the cards, but England needed more runs if they had to put pressure on India and level the series. More importantly, England needed a batsman who belonged more to 2014 than to the previous decade. In came debutant Buttler at No. 7. He blasted 85 off 83 balls, studded with 9 fours and 3 sixes. England declared at 569 for 7, eventually winning the match by 266 runs, levelling the series 1-1, then wining it 3-1. That was that: Buttler’s announcement in Test cricket.

In his first 8 Tests, Buttler scored 5 half-centuries. But since then, he has played only 8 more Tests.

Buttler is not special. He was hit by life. Though his wicketkeeping improved, his run-scoring scaled down. He eventually lost his place during the UAE tour 2016-17.

Buttler was still a regular in limited-overs. He has the 3 fastest ODI centuries for England. His brand of cricket will never change. He has been, and will always remain, a bludgeoner of the modern era.

In fact, he injected aggression into the current English batting line-up, who became a mighty force to reckon with in limited-overs following the debacle in World Cup 2015. They improved rapidly, so much so that they were the finalists of ICC World T20 2016.

England have already found a regular wicketkeeper-batsman in Jonny Bairstow. Was Buttler even needed? At home, no. Overseas, yes.

In the ongoing five-Test series against India, Buttler was drafted in as backup wicketkeeper. It is a norm. Every team has to have a backup in away tours.

England have been facing the top as well as middle-order enigma for the past few years. The selectors have tried and tested a few. But they came and went, resembling meteors more than stars. In the end the think-tank was forced to toy with the batting order. To put things into perspective, Moeen Ali has batted from No. 1 to 9. Such is the conundrum that he now bats at No. 4.

Buttler is reputed as a power-hitter, but he is also armed with a solid technique. As a result, his re-entry to Test cricket was not far away, for he has been England’s trump card in limited-overs cricket. He deserved a place in the starting XI, for he has been grabbing headlines for his country with white-ball cricket for some time.

England had left out Ballance for Ben Duckett in the first Test against India and then Duckett for Buttler in the third Test.

Moeen at No. 4, Bairstow at No. 5, Stokes at No. 6, and Buttler at No. 7: England finally had a balanced team. Don’t forget, Cook is there at the top to churn out runs, heaps of runs.

Buttler scored 43 and 18 in his comeback Test. To make matters worse, England lost the match by 8 wickets.

Yes, the swords were out, but they were still aware of what Buttler’s blade can do.

He was given another nod. No question over his selection. He is the best they have in lower middle-order.

The fourth match is being played at Wankhede Stadium Buttler’s home ground in IPL. He plays for Mumbai Indians, remember?

In the last season, he scored 255 runs at 23.18 with a strike-rate of 138.58. In addition, he was England’s finest batsman in the World T20 that was hosted in India. But the ICC tournament is still digressing. Let us stroll back to Buttler’s IPL connection with Wankhede.

He knows the track. Yes, he has bludgeoned runs on it. Not only that, he has practised his powerful strokes on it. He knows it too well.

All the same, this time it was a different format altogether. Moreover, this time his team was in a series-saving situation.

Cook elected to bat first. He scored a fine 46 himself. Debutant Keaton Jennings got 112 and Moeen 50. The track, however, appeared a Day Three track on the opening day. The tiny cracks were covered by a tinge of grass. The wily Indian spinners did not take long to spot and exploit them. Ravichandran Ashwin, especially, got the ball talking. He dismissed Jennings, Moeen, Bairstow, and Stokes (remember the No. 4, 5, and 6 batters that added balance after England dropped Ballance, if you mind the pun?).

England were 249 for 5 when Buttler took strike. They were yet again in a dicey situation. But the Barmy Army was still upbeat about their team’s fightback in a Wankhede Stadium that had finally found its voice.

Half the side was back in the pavilion. Given the nature of the track, England needed to reach 400, that is, another 151 runs. They lost a few more wickets. Jadeja wrapped up Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid. Meanwhile, Ashwin continued being Ashwin. He took one more, taking his 23rd five-wicket haul in only 42nd Test.

Amidst the fall of wickets, Buttler had already hit 4 fours. He knew he was racing against time. He had no option but to up the ante. He reached his half-century off 106 balls. By his standards, it was slow; it was uncharacteristic. But wasn’t that the need of the hour? The Indian spinners, meanwhile, were time and again getting the ball kick off the turf amidst puffs of dust. Some turned square. Some held their line.

Jennings hundred had come in a different situation. Buttler, on the hand, was at the edge. This was the worst-case scenario. He had to protect the tail from the spinners as well as add more runs. He may have batted lower down the order before, but batting with a tail is a different ball (not Jake) game.

But the job had to be done, for he had to prove his ability of providing impetus. He had to find his way, for he had to prove he could score runs in the time of need.

Buttler added 54 with Jake Ball (not the different-ball one) for the 9th wicket. He made sure he plays most number of ball, keeping Ball (yes, Jake) off strike.

He then walked across the stumps and flicked one over fine-leg off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. His eyes were on the scoreboard. Ball was dismissed by then. England had only 1 wicket in hand to reach 400.

Buttler wasted no time. Ashwin was in action. Buttler danced down the track and whacked it over long-on. He tried to do the same in the next 3 balls, but Ashwin kept him at bay. England were 399 for 8. One ball to go. Buttler smartly took a single, ensured England reach 400 and kept the strike.

He didn’t stop though. He knew he needed 24 more to reach his personal milestone, his made hundred. He shimmied again, off Jadeja this time, to clear the rope, but eventually missed the line and was clean-bowled, still awaiting his maiden hundred.

“It was very pleasing to get runs when you feel like the team needs them. I really enjoyed my time in the middle and getting us up to what we feel is a good score to have on the board. You play so much cricket that actually sometimes there’s not enough time to think about what is vital to me to get the best out of myself. I feel like (over) the last year, I have learnt the most about myself and cricket (than) in my whole career,” said Buttler after the end of day’s play. He did his job, did it with distinction. The statement said it all.

In all honesty, Buttler can bat in any position, but England need him down the order. Of course, there is Stokes to use his long handle to blasting effect, but England need Buttler Buttler, who can apply himself sensibly and keep his cool when the troops are down.

Imagine the line-up once a fit Haseeb Hameed returns. He will undoubtedly open with Cook, followed by Root, Jennings, Moeen, Stokes, Bairstow and Buttler. Of course, inclusion of Jennings will push Moeen and others one position down, but his rock-solid technique only will strengthen the middle-order.

England already have fast-bowling as well as spinning all-rounders. When they go back to playing cricket on English wickets, they can drop that extra all-rounder and play the game-changing Buttler. As an added advantage, Buttler can replace also replace Bairstow behind the stumps if the latter loses form or suffers an injury.

No matter what, captain Cook has to find a place for Buttler.

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)