Cricket is a funny game. When things are not going your way, even the simplest things seem hard. But, when the corner is turned, you can make magic happen.
It was not long ago that England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler was having a nightmare behind the stumps. He even thought he had played his last Test for England, as he gifted reprieves to Shan Masood in the first innings of the first match of the three-match series. In general, it looked like the world’s weight was on his shoulders.
On Sunday, not long after those incidents in Manchester, Buttler produced what could quite simply be called one of the best catches of the year.
The batsman was Shaheen Afridi. The left-handed batsman got a touch on a short ball from Stuart Broad down the leg side. Buttler made a full-stretch dive and grabbed the ball with the tip of his gloves to reduce Pakistan to 247/8 in the first innings.
Buttler had taken another top catch down the leg side earlier to dismiss Mohammad Rizwan, who had stitched together a great partnership with Azhar Ali. The Pakistan captain scored a century to find some batting form again while Rizwan struck a gritty half century.
Later, Pakistan were dismissed for 273, a huge 310 runs behind England’s imposing 583/8 declared, on the third day of the third Test.
Anderson took 5/56 in 23 overs – his 29th five-wicket haul in Tests – as the hosts, 1-0 up in a three-match contest, pressed for their first series win over Pakistan in a decade.
That left Anderson with 598 wickets but he would have had more had not three catches been dropped off the 38-year-old’s bowling with the new ball.
After England captain Joe Root had enforced the follow-on, the umpires decided the fading light was unsafe for Pakistan to start their second innings even though the Ageas Bowl floodlights were on.
Buttler had admitted after the series opener that he thought he may have played his last Test after the England wicketkeeper atoned for a poor display with the gloves by starring with the bat in a superb run-chase.
Buttler, whose Test-match keeping has long been a hot topic, dropped Masood and then missed a chance to stump him when the opener was on 45 during Pakistan’s first innings. Masood went on to make a Test-best 156 to help Pakistan establish a lead of over a hundred runs.
“I’m quite proud, if I take those chances, we’d have won two hours ago,” Buttler told reporters.
“I’m very aware I didn’t keep well, I missed some chances and at this level you can’t afford to do that, no matter how many runs you score.”
“Thoughts go through your head that if I don’t score any runs, I’ve maybe played my last game.
“But you have to shut those out and go and play your game.”
And having continued his superb form with the bat, making a century in the first innings of the third Test. That form with the bat certainly seems to have rubbed off on his wicketkeeping too.
(With AFP inputs)
Corrections and clarifications: This article’s headline has been updated to reflect that the catch took place in the third Test and not second.
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