Buttler’s remarkable innings – featuring five fours, five sixes and innumerable bewildered head-shakes from his team-mates in the dugout – enabled England to cruise to victory with 50 balls to spare, and cement their standing at the top of Group 1 with their third crushing win in a row. It was an opportunity for Buttler to reaffirm the all-guns-blazing mentality that has transformed England into the pre-eminent white-ball team of the era, and lay down a marker for the rest of the tournament.
“It was a fantastic team performance,” Buttler said, after a bowling display led by Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan had limited Australia to a sub-par total of 125. “Early wickets in the powerplay really set us on our way and it was great fun to chase those runs down.
“We didn’t have any scoreboard pressure. ‘Just keep imposing ourselves on the opposition’ is the way we’ve championed trying to play. We don’t try and play it safe. So if we talk that way, we have to go out and play that way as well.”
To that end, Buttler credited his opening partner, Jason Roy, for setting England’s agenda, as he galloped to the pitch of his first ball from Josh Hazlewood, and slammed him through wide long-on for four – an important statement shot given Hazlewood’s ability to drum out an awkward length. Roy then repeated the dose with a big six in Pat Cummins’ first over, and when England reached 48 for 0 after five overs, Buttler knew it was time to put the hammer down.
Jayawardene: Batting depth allows Buttler, Roy to go hard in the powerplay
“I think you get quite inspired by Jason at the other end when he is running down first ball against Hazlewood and running down against Cummins,” he said. “These are top bowlers and the way he can impose himself inspires at the other end. When you get to the last over of the powerplay none down, it felt like an over to really throw caution to the wind and just go for it.
“Once you get in that hitting mode, it is [about] just allowing yourself to keep going. Sometimes you think ‘I’ll rein it back in a little bit’, but then you catch yourself half-hearted. So especially with the position we were in, in the game, it was more ‘I’m just gonna keep going’. And keep trying to take advantage of being in a good zone.”
As Buttler’s innings progressed, so the shots became more outrageous – a brace of swings through the line for six off Mitchell Starc were followed by another heave over long-off as he failed to reach the pitch of an Adam Zampa legbreak, but trusted his eye to punish the ball high into the stands.
“I think we’re an incredibly fit team. That gives us another dimension, especially on fields like this where there are bigger gaps at times and you can push twos. It’s another area that we can push to try and play at the level we want to play”
“The mental side of things is something I try to work on a lot,” he said. “Some of the practice wickets have been a bit tricky but [on Friday] I managed to have some great practice. It’s nice to put your hands through a few again, have some fun and freedom.
“If you practise it, the confidence stays. Your adrenaline is going but you’re trying to remain quite level in your brain and relaxed in the top half. When guys are bowling fast, you have that level of adrenaline.”
Nor was there any respite for Australia in England’s running between the wickets. Buttler twice managed to turn pinpoint yorkers into threes with deft wristwork, including a firm drive off Hazlewood to the edge of the cover boundary, and his understanding with Roy was instrumental in keeping the score ticking throughout the powerplay.
“We want to put the opposition under pressure in all facets of the game with bat, ball, in the field and the way we run as well,” Buttler said. “I think we’re an incredibly fit team. That gives us another dimension, especially on fields like this where there are bigger gaps at times and you can push twos. It’s another area that we can push to try and play at the level we want to play.”
Though Buttler is familiar with the Dubai stadium through his time in the IPL, this campaign is his first visit to the venue with England since the 2015-16 series against Pakistan, where he cracked a 46-ball century in the fourth ODI, England’s fastest of all time.
“That’s obviously a while ago now but every time you come and play here, there are obviously great memories,” he said. “We were in the same dressing-room as well on that day. It just has a nice feel about it, remembering that sort of day. So absolutely that gives you confidence to know you are coming back to a ground where you have probably played your best innings at.”
With three comprehensive wins from three, Buttler admitted that England could not be better placed in their push for a semi-final berth. And though they have had the advantage of chasing in each of their three games to date, he did not feel that the conditions – in particular the onset of dew in the second innings – had played an undue part in their success.
“The format doesn’t allow much room for error so to be three from three – including wins against West Indies and Australia as well, no disrespect to Bangladesh – and to play as convincingly as we have has been awesome,” he said. “The games we have played, we’ve pegged back the opposition really early. We have restricted teams to under-par scores, so I wouldn’t say we’ve seen big benefits of batting second.
“As the tournament goes on and the wickets become more tired, maybe the advantage will swap to batting first,” he added. “That is one challenge we are going to have to work out as a side. If we lose the toss or we choose to bat first, how are we going to approach our innings to get to a score that we think is defendable.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket