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Buttler: Proteas the biggest challenge in the world

Proteas

Jos Buttler may have lost his towel in celebrating the Mumbai Indians’ Indian Premier League title victory, but England’s star wicket-keeper is firmly focused on the ODI series against South Africa starting on Wednesday at Headingley.

Buttler is back in the England camp after smashing 272 runs for the Mumbai Indians over the past month, but was forced to miss the final in preparation for the home summer, which includes the much-anticipated ICC Champions Trophy.

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Jos Buttler gets ready for the Proteas during England practice at Headingley on Tuesday. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters

However, England and South Africa face off in a three-match series before the multi-team jamboree, which he believes will be a stern test of the hosts’ trophy credentials.

“(South Africa) Probably biggest challenge in the world right now,” Buttler told the official ECB website. “They’re ranked the No 1 ODI side in the world. They have a very experienced team. They have many guys who have played in our conditions before, so it’s a great challenge for us.”

Due to his IPL commitments, Buttler missed England’s recent ODI successes against Ireland at home.

And even though Sam Billings was used behind the stumps for the Ireland series, England’s Test wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow delivered a couple of inspiring batting performances in the middle-order to maintain pressure on Buttler.

There is, though, no sign that Bairstow – or Billings for that matter – will be selected ahead of Buttler, with the Lancastrian still firmly entrenched as England’s first-choice in white-ball cricket.

In fact, Buttler, who is considered a “360-degree” cricketer in the AB de Villiers mould, believes his game has grown even further due to the experiences gained at the IPL.

“I’m feeling really good. It was nice to go to the IPL. To get away from the England environment a bit. It can become a bit of a bubble at times,” he said.

“Sometimes you just need to get outside. I feel really refreshed. Obviously the lads went on to win, and it was great to be a part of that.

“But I’m really excited (for the South Africa series). It’s a great challenge against a very good side, just before the Champions Trophy. It’s perfect preparation for that, but it’s a series we want to win.

“We are not thinking too far ahead. Something we pride ourselves is focusing on the next game, and that starts on Wednesday against South Africa.”

Likely Teams

England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (captain), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali/Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood.

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo/Wayne Parnell, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Morné Morkel, Imran Tahir.

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