It’s Jos Buttler’s T20 World Cup, and everyone else is just playing in it.
After his latest masterclass, Ben Stokes was sitting at home and terming him the “best in the world”. His employers have long since taken to terming him “Universe Jos”.
Two days after savaging Australia’s bowlers in Dubai, Buttler became the first male player from England to score a century in all three international formats, with a sparkling knock against Si Lanka in Sharjah.
His 101 not out from 67 balls helped England push their 100 per cent record in this competition to four matches. In that time, Buttler has scored 214 runs for once out.
This 26-run win was England’s toughest test to date, but still they march on. Mathematically they can still be beaten to a place in the semi-final. Given their handsome net run-rate, it is realistically impossible they will be.
The conditions for batters in Sharjah must be difficult at the moment, because even Buttler briefly looked human.
In the first half of England’s innings, the Sri Lanka bowlers had the better of the exchanges. Ten overs in, they were 47-3, with Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, and Jonny Bairstow all going cheaply.
The low bounce of the Sharjah wicket was playing tricks on everyone. Buttler himself looked increasingly frustrated as ball after ball thudded into the toe of his bat.
It was a far cry from the free-for-all of his unbeaten, 32-ball 71 against Australia on Saturday night. Off the first 30 balls he faced against Sri Lanka, he made a mere 24 runs.
It is a marker of his genius that, even in trying circumstances, he found a way to accelerate.
Off the next 37 balls he faced, he struck 77, bringing up three figures off the last ball of the innings when he deposited a high full-toss from Dushmantha Chameera over the backward square leg boundary.
Only Heather Knight, their women’s captain, has previously completed the set of Test, one-day international and T20 international centuries for England.
Buttler’s second-half assault lifted the world’s No 1 ranked side to 163-4 by the end of their 20 overs. They had made 116 in the second half of the innings – which was well over double what they managed in the first.
A target of 164 was by no means impossible. But given the manner in which Buttler seized the momentum for England, it felt far-fetched to think Sri Lanka could do it.
Even with the gloves, Buttler could not keep out of the action. Off the third ball of the reply, Sri Lanka lost their first wicket when Buttler combined again with Eoin Morgan – with whom he had shared a 112-run partnership with the ball – to run out Pathum Nissanka.
Adil Rashid, who is having a fine World Cup himself, took 2-19 off his four overs of leg-spin.
It was not exclusively good news for England. Tymal Mills, the fast bowler whose England career has been regularly interrupted by injury, hobbled off the field.
Mills pulled up midway through his second over with what looked like hamstring injury.
Whatever effect that has on the rest of the competition remains to be seen. It did put England’s immediate plans in a spin, though.
As England tried to cover the loss of two-and-a-half Mills overs, Sri Lanka were emboldened.
When Dasun Shanaka and Wanindu Hasaranga, put on 53 for the sixth wicket, the nerves of England’s supporters were becoming frayed.
It took a brilliant relayed catch from Jason Roy to Sam Billings, who was on as substitute for Mills, to finally extinguish Sri Lanka’s chances. That ended Hasaranga’s counter-attack after a 21-ball cameo worth 34.
Fittingly, it was left to Buttler to provide the exclamation mark, as he ran out Shanaka with a direct hit in the next over. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 137 as Moeen took two wickets in the penultimate over.