By Luke Baker
FEAR THE wounded animal is Jos Buttler’s warning as England prepare to renew old rivalries for Wednesday’s first Royal London One-Day International against Australia.
Not even six months have passed since England were swept away by their Ashes rivals, a humbling 4-0 defeat Down Under showing the Test disparity between the two sides.
But a lot of water has passed under that particular bridge, with Buttler helping the tourists respond in kind with a 4-1 ODI series win back in January to help move to No.1 in the world rankings.
More pertinently, the Australian side has since been turned upside down by a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa – with Steven Smith and David Warner since cast aside after bans from Cricket Australia.
An under-strength side will therefore take to The Oval on Wednesday – for the first of five Royal London ODIs – but Buttler knows that doesn’t tell the complete story of what this new-look side will bring.
“It’s a bit of everything with the Australians coming over – in one sense they are there for the taking but they will also be a bit of a wounded animal,” said the 27-year-old, speaking at a private batting session to celebrate unconventional greatness in cricket with Royal London.
“They’ll definitely be out to prove a point with a new coach [Justin Langer] and a new captain [Tim Paine] and some determined guys with an opportunity to make their mark.
“History says Australia have always produced really good cricketers, so it will be a really tough series.
“But we’re confident – in our own conditions in the last few years we’ve been playing really well. We’re at No.1 in the world, so that gives us a huge amount of confidence.
“We need to continue what we have been doing and continue improving though. We can’t rest on our laurels.
“To an extent I guess we have a psychological advantage because of the winter – it certainly gives us confidence that we can beat them.”
Confident England may be but a humbling defeat to Scotland on Sunday was hardly the preparation Buttler and co were hoping for – against a side who aren’t competing in next year’s World Cup.
Less than a year remains until England look to add a first piece of 50-over silverware to their trophy cabinet, with few better chances of ending their barren run than a tournament on home soil.
Indeed Lancashire’s Buttler forms a major part of those plans, leading the way for an exciting and attacking brand of cricket that has mostly worked at home and abroad.
And few in the line-up can currently boast the confidence of the wicketkeeper, reinstated into the Test team for last month’s Pakistan series after an eye-catching period in the IPL.
He added: “I’m really excited to get back to white-ball cricket – it’s a great team to be a part of and a really fun dressing room to be in.
“We’ve been playing some good cricket for the past few years, so it’s always a great time when the side comes back together and there’s the excitement of white-ball cricket.
“Any time you’re scoring runs, it gives you confidence, so my red-ball scoring can definitely translate into the white-ball stuff.
“Like I said before the Test matches, I played well in the IPL and that gave me confidence, so whatever format you’re playing well in, you can easily take that into other formats.
“I’m in a good space, excited to play and looking forward to some good games.”
Even the man himself knows that a confident Buttler is a good Buttler.
Three of England’s five fastest ODI centuries are his, while his new-found role as specialist No.7 in the Test team is already sprouting potential that many had doubted.
Give him the scoreboard, therefore, and he could very well give you the game – whatever the format.
“I try to keep a very similar mental state – that’s something I’ve been working on,” he added.
“Trying to take the same mindset of scoring runs, although the elements of risk you take do vary slightly.
“But what you‘re trying to do is just react to the situation in the game. When I’m playing my best, I’m looking at the scoreboard, working out what it required of me and playing accordingly.”