Jos Buttler battled concerns over the health of his father and thoughts about losing his Test place when he and Chris Woakes guided England to their astonishing turnaround victory in the first Test against Pakistan.
Buttler’s 75 from 101 balls would have been a remarkable innings regardless but during the run chase his sister, Joanne Vickers, tweeted news that their father, Johnny, had spent the previous evening in hospital. Though an England spokesperson confirmed he was now back at home, Buttler requested not to discuss the issue after the win but Joe Root, his close friend and captain, was happy to share his admiration.
Root said: “It says a huge amount about him as a person to carry that and be able to either use it, or park it – only he will know which way he did that – and to play in that manner was exceptional. To have that external pressure as well, I’m chuffed to bits with him.”
On the field Buttler was facing additional scrutiny after a lacklustre performance behind the stumps in the first innings which saw the centurion Shan Masood handed two lives on 45. Though there had been signs of his batting finding form this summer, it left the 29-year-old with a sense of now or never.
Buttler told Sky Sports: “Definitely thoughts go through your head. ‘Potentially if I don’t score any runs, I’ve played my last game’ – those are the kind of things that are in your head. But you’ve got to try and shut them out and focus on the here and now and play the situation. I’m pleased that I was able to do that.
“I’d like to say if I take those chances, we’d have won two hours ago. I’m very aware I didn’t keep well. There have been some lonely nights thinking about it. But runs aside, if you are a wicketkeeper in this team, you have to keep better than I did in the first innings.”
There was only one choice for man of the match, however, with Woakes following his four wickets – including the key removals of Babar Azam and Azhar Ali in England’s third-innings fightback – with an unbeaten 84 that ended a slightly barren run since his maiden Test century against India in 2018.
Root said: “You watch him play and know he’s more than capable of three or four more Test hundreds. His game is there. He’s got all the attributes, he was clear how he wanted to play Yasir Shah and managed the seamers.
“To see a ball like the one that got Ollie Pope, park it and have the presence of mind to stay leg side and trust his hands shows his experience in international cricket has really paid off.”
Buttler added: “He’s a fantastic cricketer, and with another all-rounder like [Ben] Stokes in the team he sometimes is overshadowed and he doesn’t seek out the limelight.
“But he showed some great shots and great character to walk off at the end. This is a fantastic win and we take some great momentum forward for the rest of the series.”