Could Jos Buttler Bat #3 For England in Sri Lanka?

There is a huge caveat to this article because I don't see it happening. Chris Silverwood has already confirmed that he fully expects Jos Buttler to keep wicket during the first Test in Galle, and Jos kept wicket during the recent warm-up. Chance are that Jos Buttler will keep wicket and bat #7 when the test series commences next Thursday.

However, this was a solution offered by the twitter account Duke and Kookaburra (follow them here) which I thought was an interesting discussion point. In an effort to get both Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes into the team, the suggestion was to have Ben Foakes keep and bat #7, with Jos Buttler moving up the order to replace Joe Denly at #3.

The point here is that you don't want to play too much with the batting lineup. It would be easy to suggest that everyone moves up one and Jos fits it at #6. However Root is just getting settled in at #4 and with Pope just settling into international cricket, you likely don't want to move him from his position at #6. Pope may be an England #3 in waiting, but in my opinion, you don't move him for at least another 12-18 months.

First of all, Joe Denly seems like an easy target again here. However, it's hard to argue that in a batting lineup of so much ability/potential, he's often seen as the weak link at #3. He hasn't done a lot wrong, and he's actually had some incredibly impressive knocks, but a test average around 30 just a few days shy of his 34th birthday, doesn't make you believe he's the answer.

The second problem, Jos Buttler has never batted #3 in test cricket. He opened once (out for 4). but he's never come in at first drop. He spent a small amount of time at #5, but his average at 5 (28.63) was less than his career average (31.75). Not to mention that at the moment he's going through a barron spell, with his 2018 century the only one to his name, and an average of 16.20 in 2020 to go with his 25.10 average in 2019...should we be pushing out Denly for a player who's in bad form?

Also, does this create more problems than it solves? Let's say Jos does well at #3, Crawley, Sibley and Foakes all do well at their respective positions. In the summer when the ball is swinging, does anyone think Jos could bat that high in the lineup? With his aggressive shot-making and dangerous stroke play? Burns will come back in, so who drops out? Does Jos automatically drop out to accommodate Crawley? We know the English management love Jos, so will Foakes be pushed out for the 2nd time through no fault of his own performance?

However, here is where it partly makes sense. Jos Buttler is a very good player of spin. Although it's a small sample size, his average of 41.67 in Sri Lanka and 38.50 in India proves in the sub-continent Jos is a very decent batsmen to have. Ben Foakes with his 69.25 average in Sri Lanka, is also a good player of spin. So doesn't it make sense to have them both in the lineup? This would also allow England to play their best keeper in Foakes, on pitches that will likely turn sideways at points.

If Sri Lanka don't open with spin, they'll introduce it fairly quickly. Which means that Buttler will be protected more at #3 in the sub-continent than he would be in England, Australia or South Africa.

With 120 World Test Championship points up for grabs, you want to see your best lineup out there. Jos is one of the better batsmen against spin in this lineup, he also has experience on the sub-continent. Foakes has form in Sri Lanka and is your best keeper, he'll take his chances and help restrict Sri Lanka's runs. In the long run, I don't think playing Jos at #3 makes sense. By the same margin, I don't think Denly at #3 is your long term solution either. So the question I asked myself was...In Sri Lanka, to win a test, would you take Denly or Buttler, and my answer was Buttler.

Sibley, Crawley, Buttler, Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Bess, Curran, Parkinson, Broad

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