Losing start for Jos Buttler but new England captain will be backed to the hilt by senior teammates

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Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler partnered up well against India  (Getty Images)
Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler partnered up well against India (Getty Images)

When Eoin Morgan retired from international duty last week, there was little doubt that Jos Buttler would be named England’s white-ball new captain and, two days later, he was.

In the intervening time, though, Morgan — perhaps to imply he had no influence on the matter — name-dropped Moeen Ali and Chris Jordan as possible candidates.

Morgan’s comments made it clear that just as he leaned on Buttler, Buttler would lean on Moeen and Jordan, who have played more than 500 T20s between them and captain their counties in the Vitality Blast. Moeen has captained England’s T20 team four times, only one fewer than Buttler. Next week, in the ODIs, Buttler will have team-mates such as Joe Root and Ben Stokes to lean on; in T20s, with a World Cup looming, it is Moeen and Jordan.

Buttler’s first night in charge, with Morgan commentating for Sky, was one to forget for the skipper, who was bowled by a Bhuvneshwar Kumar beauty for a golden duck in a 50-run defeat. It is very early days, and he had a good night with the gloves and made some tactical moves that worked, but at times it looked like juggling so many jobs was hard work.

But Buttler got plenty of support from his two most trusted lieutenants, both in performance and leadership.

Moeen, playing his 50th T20i, picked up both India’s openers when bowling thankless overs in the powerplay, then top-scored with 36 from 20 after England’s dreadful start with the bat. Amid the 10-an-over carnage, Jordan took outstanding figures of two for 23, then made an unbeaten 26 from 17 balls to help save a little face as the match suffered a slow death.

Both men unfussily set their own fields, which helped Buttler, and directed traffic. Moeen was regularly stationed in the ring, where he was able to chat to under-pressure bowlers like Morgan used to. That limited the number of times Buttler had to sprint from behind the stumps to provide counsel.

Buttler was full of praise for Moeen — “an incredibly selfless cricketer” — but this felt a particularly significant performance from Jordan with the ball. He will be 33 by the World Cup and, by his own admission, has put in mixed performances in recent times.

Speaking to Standard Sport in May about his winter, Jordan said: “It didn’t go according to plan. I’m not going to sit here and lie and say everything has been plain-sailing. I probably haven’t performed as well as I would have liked, especially in the scenarios that I have become known to be solid in, in the pressure moments at the death.”

Jordan had a good Blast with Surrey and retained England’s trust. Last night, he shied away from his yorkers, searching for a “harder length”, and bowled quickly, too, touching 89mph. He took vital wickets in his first two overs and only went for two boundaries.

Chris Jordan in action versus India in the first T20 (Action Images via Reuters)
Chris Jordan in action versus India in the first T20 (Action Images via Reuters)

“He was absolutely brilliant,” said Buttler. “He’s someone you have full faith throwing the ball to. It was great to see him get such great figures.”

Jordan will lead England’s attack again when the series continues at Edgbaston tomorrow and Trent Bridge on Sunday, with David Willey and debutant Richard Gleeson likely to come in, given the congested schedule.

The bad news for England is that India are stronger with Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli back after the Tests. Turning the series round will require the smarts of all England’s leaders.

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