Jos Buttler’s latest dose of heavy hitting was still enough to shock his team-mates as England made a record-breaking start to the one-day international series against South Africa.
Buttler plundered his fourth ODI century from 73 balls as England racked up 399 for nine – their highest total on foreign soil – en-route to a 39-run Duckworth-Lewis Method win.
It was another stunning show from Buttler who could already boast the three fastest ODI centuries by an England batsman.
The most recent of those came against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last year when captain Eoin Morgan also promoted Buttler to four and watched him peel off a 46-ball ton.
If Buttler’s team-mates have seen it all before they were still left in awe by an innings that was the slowest of his four ODI tons, yet still a blitz by anyone else’s standards.
“The reaction was, half the guys couldn’t believe it,” Morgan told ecb.co.uk.
“We watch it in the nets all the time and we saw it in the UAE and we’ve seen glimpses of it at home but today he was different class.
“The reason for promoting him is because we have a very flexible batting line-up. We were flying at around eight-and-a-half (runs per over) at one stage and it felt right to promote him up the order.
“He’s one of our only players who has the capabilties to score a 40 or 50-ball hundred. The timing of it just seemed right.”
Morgan was able to turn to Buttler so early on after Alex Hales and Jason Roy got England off to a flying start and set the stage for a big total.
Buttler was then ably assisted by half-centuries from Joe Root and Ben Stokes and, while they fell short of their 408 for nine, scored against New Zealand at Edgbaston last sunmmer, the batting performance was yet more proof of how England have so emphatically turned the corner since last year’s World Cup group-stage exit.
“Absolutely and guys are buying in to the agressive brand of cricket that we have played in the past,” Morgan said.
“It is important to continue that because in order to do that we need to express ourselves talent wise and get as much talent as we can out of ourselves and today we did that.
“For a long time we looked like getting 420 but we fell a little bit short and got 399.”
Good start to the series. On to Port Elizabeth pic.twitter.com/OABQyIxHXT
— Eoin Morgan (@Eoin16) February 3, 2016
Buttler’s heroics were not the only highlight of the match with Stokes producing a nother jaw-dropping moment in his growing reel of highlights when he pouched a one-handed catch on the long-on boundary to remove AB de Villiers.
“I was at extra-cover and I couldn’t beleive it,” Morgan added.
“It went like a tracer bullet and he somehow clinged on to it with one hand. It reminded me a little bit of the catch in Cardiff to get rid of Glenn Maxwell in the T20 game which turned the game for us and again the wicket of AB de Villiers is obviously a high-prized wicket.
“To get it in that fashion was very good.”
England were made to sweat in defending their record total after man of the match Quinton de Kock confirmed his own status as one of the world’s premier young batsmen with an unbeaten 138 from 96 balls.
The wicketkeeper-batsman had steered the Proteas to 250 for five when the rain set in and denied him the chance to take the game deeper.
“(We are) very pleased to start with a win but obviously the rain interrupted what looked like would be a great game of cricket which is disappointing,” Morgan admitted.
“We started really well wit the bat, the two openers up top really set the tone for the day and we batted around Jos Buttler.
“He showed again why people talk about him a lot. He showed his full range of shots today which is great to see. I thought it was a monumental effort to score 399.”