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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Supreme Jos Buttler takes England to series win after pace makes Powerplay inroads

Jos Buttler was again in excellent touch AFP

England 158 for 4 (Buttler 77*, Malan 42) beat Australia 157 for 7 (Finch 40, Stoinis 35) by six wickets

Jos Buttler led England to a series win with seven balls and one game to spare against Australia at the Ageas Bowl, stroking a fluent 77 not out in a comfortable chase of 158.

Buttler started surprisingly slowly in the run chase, reaching the halfway mark on just 25 from 24 balls, but put his foot on the gas in the back half, pacing his innings to perfection despite a slight wobble as England lost three wickets in 22 balls.

Australia recovered from 3 for 2 and 30 for 3 to reach 157 after choosing to bat first, after Jofra Archer and Mark Wood ripped through the top order in a frighteningly quick new-ball spell. Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis' innings helped them to a respectable score, but it never looked like being enough.

England lightning-fast start

Powerplay wickets have been a real problem for England this calendar year: coming into this game, they had taken only three in 36 overs, and Eoin Morgan had repeated highlighted new-ball bowling as an area for improvement.

But this time they managed to double the tally for the year thanks to hostile spells from Archer and Wood, whose combined average speed in the first two overs was above 90mph/145kph. Archer struck earlier, removing David Warner with a lifter in the off-stump channel that cut him in half, with the on-field decision upheld as Ultra-Edge confirmed it had flicked the glove on the way through to Buttler.

Alex Carey was given a promotion to No. 3, with Glenn Maxwell shifting down in an attempt to solve Australia's middle-order conundrum, but looked all at sea in his brief stay, eventually feathering behind off Wood as he backed away to leave Australia 3 for 2.

Archer's second over started with a 95.8mph/154.2kph ball the beat Finch, though his second ball was pulled for six. Steven Smith got up and running with two pulled boundaries - a four and a six - off Tom Curran, before he took on a quick single to Morgan at short midwicket and was run out with a direct hit to leave Australia reeling at 30 for 3.

England had been successful hitting the pitch at the death in the first game, and maintained a similar plan with the new ball today; Wood's yorker to Marcus Stoinis, the penultimate delivery of the sixth over, was the first ball that registered full of a length in ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data.

Finch, Stoinis lead recovery

Stoinis looked scratchy throughout his innings on Friday night, managing 23 not out off 18 balls as Australia fell two runs short in their chase. Coming in with the field restrictions still in place, he looked more comfortable in this innings, rebuilding in a 49-run partnership with Finch that laid some foundations for late-innings acceleration.

He was surprised by a sharp legbreak, steering to slip to give Adil Rashid a wicket off the last ball of his spell in consecutive games, but Maxwell's enterprising cameo and some old-fashioned long-handle hitting from Pat Cummins took Australia to a respectable - if slightly below-par - 157 for 7 on a used pitch.

Malan's run continues

England stuck with their bowler-heavy combination, resisting the temptation to bring in Sam Curran with brother Tom still carded at No. 7 instead, so it was important that their top order did the bulk of the scoring in the run chase.

Jonny Bairstow fell early to a freak dismissal, becoming the first Englishman out hit wicket in T20Is as his bat swung around into his stumps following an attempted pull, leaving Buttler and Dawid Malan with a job to do.

Malan started characteristically slowly, reaching 15 off 15 balls, but grew in fluency and reinforced his ability against spin in the middle overs, hitting the first two deliveries of the ninth and tenth overs for four. He would have been frustrated to hole out to deep midwicket off Ashton Agar for 42, but he extended his freakish T20I record, now averaging 50.84 with a 147.87 strike rate after 15 innings.

Buttler's brilliance

Buttler hit three early boundaries off the spinners, including an beautiful punch through the covers and a dismissive crack over mid-on, but was unusually sedate early in his innings and he moved to 25 off 24 balls at halfway.

But he found his groove in the second half of the innings, hitting boundaries in the 11th, 12th, 13th overs and two in the 14th to make sure England weren't tied down at any stage, despite losing three wickets in four overs.

Finch attacked early, Mitchell Starc bowling three in the Powerplay and one in the 15th, leaving the spinners to bowl at the death, and after Moeen Ali took the pressure off with two languid flows of the bat for six and four at the start of the 19th, Buttler sealed the game with seven balls to spare with an enormous straight six off Zampa.

Since his promotion to the top of the Rajasthan Royals' batting order in May 2018, Buttler has now averaged 47.13 with a strike rate of 153.86 as an opener, with 15 half-centuries in 33 innings. Morgan reiterated before this series that England would continue to use him in that role, and it is increasingly difficult to make the case that he should bat anywhere else.

England 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st19JM BairstowJC Buttler
2nd87DJ MalanJC Buttler
3rd16JC ButtlerT Banton
4th13EJG MorganJC Buttler
5th23MM AliJC Buttler