Jos Buttler was encouraged by Jofra Archer’s England comeback but blamed a “tentative” batting display as they threw away victory in the first one-day international against South Africa.
Archer was understandably rusty on his first outing for England since March 2021, taking one for 81 on a hot and sunny afternoon in Bloemfontein – his most expensive figures in a white-ball international.
But he got through his 10 overs, following an exclusive diet of T20s since his return to action this month, and bowled seven in the powerplay or at the death when scoring is typically at its heaviest.
He cut a frustrated figure towards the end of South Africa’s 298 for seven – which was enough for a 27-run victory after England subsided to 271 all out – but Buttler had some consolatory words of comfort.
“He’s going to set himself high standards, he has high expectations of himself,” England’s white-ball captain said. “It was always going to be a big challenge for him to get back to bowling 10 overs in a game.
“It’s a big step up for him and I’m delighted to see him come through that, it’s great to see him in an England shirt and back taking a wicket in an England shirt as well.
“They’re all big steps even though he’s such a superstar of the game. They’re all good steps on the way to getting him back to being at his best.
“The big things coming up in English cricket with the Ashes in the summer and the World Cup later in the year, he’s going to get more and more cricket under his belt and just get better and better.”
England sprang out of the traps in the chase and Jason Roy ended a lean run with a spectacular 79-ball hundred, claiming the lion’s share in a attacking 146-run opening stand with Dawid Malan in 19.3 overs.
“We played fantastically well for the majority of the game so to not go on and win is disappointing,” Buttler said. “The big learning is to keep that conviction and commitment to the way we play.
“When you’re a bit tentative or second-guessing, that’s when you fall short. So it’s just reminding the guys to have full commitment to our method, we know it serves us well and gives us great success.
“It’ll hurt for a little bit but looking at the bigger picture of the World Cup and looking ahead – to see Jason play that way is brilliant and gives a huge lift to the side.”
Roy’s position in the ODI side, a few months before England begin their World Cup defence in India, was growing increasingly unstable after failing to make a half-century in 14 international innings.
Buttler insisted on the eve of this match that Roy would come good sooner rather than later and the opener rewarded his skipper’s faith with a firecracker innings containing 11 fours and four sixes.
“He looked completely back to his best,” Buttler added. “It was a phenomenal innings full of personality and courage, some fantastic shots.
“I’m delighted to see him back to his best, he’s worked really hard to get there and been through a tough time. That can happen to everyone in cricket, we all go through those tough periods.
“Having the strength of character to come out and play in the fashion he did and really impose himself was fantastic to see.”