Jos Buttler
Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler plays a shot during the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket match against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on April 16, 2024. His unbeaten ton helped Rajasthan record their fifth win in six matches and keep the lead in the point table this season. Image Credit: AFP

Jos Butler bossed the chase. His unbeaten century denied the Kolkata Knight Riders, who believed 223 was a winning score, to hand Rajasthan Royals a last-ball win. It was an incredible feat considering the circumstances, but Buttler has often conjured such extraordinary knocks. The 107 not out (60 balls) in the Indian Premier League on Tuesday stands out as an effort in the face of adversity.

I watched a similar innings in the T20 World Cup 2021 in Sharjah. Opening the England batting, Buttler struggled against the Sri Lankan bowlers on a difficult pitch but stuck around to raise the tempo and complete a century in the last over. That was a master class in batting according to the situation.

Buttler does it so well. England’s white-ball cricket captain used to be the best batter in the limited-overs formats. That was a couple of years ago. Buttler’s fearsome reputation dimmed after a string of dismal performances. In the IPL, Buttler always produced scintillating knocks, and Rajasthan have benefited from them.

Buttler’s early struggles at Eden Gardens

The opening batter has been struggling this season, although he struck a century against the Royal Challengers Bengaluru 10 days ago. Barring that knock, his best was 13. Even at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, Buttler could not find any rhythm despite despatching a screaming cover drive off Australian pace ace Mitchell Starc early on.

Initially, he mustered only 42 runs from 34 deliveries but shifted gears to plunder the next 65 off 26 balls. Rajasthan badly needed that blitz, for they were looking down the barrel at 121/6 when chasing Kolkata’s 223, although Riyan Parag’s 14-ball 34 had propelled the scoring rate.

It’s difficult to stop Buttler in full flow. Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy and speedster Starc were not spared as the Rajasthan opener tore into the KKR attack. When Rovman Powell left after a 13-ball 26, Rajasthan’s hopes rested on Buttler’s shoulders. With a heavily strapped left hamstring, Buttler refused singles to score 38 runs required for a win in the company of a scoreless Avesh Khan.

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Having missed the previous game due to injury, Buttler came into the KKR match as an Impact Substitute. If he can do this when searching for form, imagine the havoc Buttler could unleash in full flow. We could see that in the IPL soon.

The England star’s contribution will be crucial in Rajasthan’s push for a second IPL title. With six wins in seven games, they lead the points table. But there’s still a long way to go.

Incidentally, Rajasthan equalled their record for the highest successful run-chase in IPL history, having scored 224 against Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings) in 2020.