Rehan Ahmed defended Jos Buttler’s captaincy following criticism of his tactical acumen by Sir Alastair Cook after England started their tour of the Caribbean on a losing note.
Several of Buttler’s decisions were scrutinised during a calamitous World Cup defence and England’s new era in ODIs made a false start as they were beaten by a Shai Hope-inspired West Indies on Sunday.
Having been strangled by spin duo Ahmed and Liam Livingstone, the Windies needed 101 in the last nine overs but they feasted on England’s pace bowlers to win with four wickets and seven balls to spare.
Cook, the former England captain and their record Test run-scorer, wondered on TNT Sports afterwards whether Buttler could have juggled his resources better during the Windies’ successful chase and deployed Will Jacks’ off-spin in the middle overs to take the pressure off the seamers at the death.
But 19-year-old leg-spinner Ahmed said: “Jos is an unbelievable captain. It’s just his call.
“We were in a great position by the end of it. It wasn’t like there was bad decisions throughout the game.
“I don’t think you can put anything down to Jacksy not bowling. I felt like we were always in the game even right to the end.
“We just didn’t execute at the end. We were always still in the game.”
Buttler’s lean patch with the bat also continued at the weekend after being dismissed for three, his fifth single figure score in eight innings while he is averaging 14.1 since the start of the World Cup.
Ahmed said: “Every time I bowl to him in the nets, he smacks me everywhere. Some people can be short of runs sometimes but he’s still Jos Buttler. He’s probably the best white-ball player I’ve bowled to.”
Sam Curran felt the full might of the Windies’ power hitting as he leaked 98 from 9.5 overs and the most expensive ODI figures by an England bowler came with the extra indignity of being pummelled for three sixes in four balls as unbeaten centurion Hope got his side over the line.
Curran’s fortunes have nosedived since being named player of the tournament in England’s triumphant T20 World Cup campaign last year.
Dropped after three innocuous showings at the 50-over World Cup – averaging 11.66 and 70 with bat and ball respectively – the 25-year-old made an important 38 off 26 balls at the weekend, although that was overshadowed by what followed.
Ahmed, who was the pick of England’s attack with two for 40, has backed Curran to demonstrate his resilience in the second ODI of the three-match series on Wednesday.
He said: “After losing a game and if you’ve been hit around then I don’t think you’ll be very happy with it.
“The thing is, Sam is an unbelievable player – everyone knows he is as well, so I’m sure the next game he’ll probably get a five-for, he’ll be good.”
It is understood Ahmed’s younger brother Farhan will be selected on Tuesday in England’s squad for the Under-19 World Cup, which is set to be held in South Africa from January 13 to February 4 next year.
The 15-year-old is an off-spinner by trade and although his elder sibling cracked a couple of jokes at his expense, there is the prospect of two Ahmeds in an England side in the future.
Ahmed joked: “He bowls a lot of dot balls so he’ll be quite boring and I don’t expect (him to hit) too many sixes. But no, I’m very happy for him, he’s very young and he’s been picked for such a big thing.
“He’s quite exciting for an off-spinner, which is quite surprising. But I think he’ll go well. I’m very chuffed for him.
“I play with my older brother and younger brother and dad in club cricket and it’s the best ever feeling.
“As many of us that can play together it’s always going to be good. Whether it’s for England for county for school for a club, anything.
“Playing alongside family is always a great feeling.”