Jos Buttler, England’s top scorer in the second innings so far, believes his team already has enough runs – 233 – to work with but thinks a lead of 250 will be ideal.
In the six matches that Buttler has played since being recalled for Tests in May, he has scored three half-centuries as well as his maiden Test century. The hundred came against India at Trent Bridge in a losing cause, but the 69 he made on day three in Southampton and the partnerships of 56 and 55 he shared with Ben Stokes and Sam Curran, respectively, may have given England a shot at victory, and a 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
“We’ve got plenty to work with already but anything about 250 would be a great number to try and eke out tomorrow morning,” Buttler told Sky Sports at the end of day three.
“That would give us plenty of runs on a challenging pitch.”
As to how ‘challenging’ the pitch is, Buttler had this to say: “You go through phases batting on this pitch – at times it feels like a good wicket but then a couple of balls will spin from the rough and then you find it harder for a bit. A few have kept a bit lower and brought the stumps into play as well.
“You are always trying to find the right balance between attack and defence. We got it wrong in the first innings and it was an obvious one to address for the second innings. But you’ve got to look to score runs, especially in a low-scoring game like this one.”
Coming into this game with the additional responsibility of keeping wickets, Buttler is looking forward to his duties on days four and perhaps even five on what will also be a tough pitch to keep wickets on.
“It may be tough but it is fun and you think chances will be coming so I’m looking forward to it,” he said, adding that it wouldn’t just be Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid troubling the Indian batsmen by spinning the ball out of the rough created outside a right-hander’s off-stump.
“All our bowlers will be a threat, not just Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are fantastic bowlers in all conditions,” Buttler said. “The new ball will be an important period in the game – when the old ball got softer it became easier to bat.”
But before England get to that, they will have Curran holding fort on day four with Stuart Broad and James Anderson for company. Having played a big role in rescuing England from 86-6 in the first innings with his handy 78, Curran has a job to do yet again.
Buttler has full confidence in the 20-year-old’s abilities. “He is suited to international cricket,” Buttler said of Curran. “He’s never looked over-awed, he’s always up for the fight and never wants to take a backwards step. It’s been a promising start and hopefully he can kick on.”