Jos Buttler is keen to stay on as captain and lead England’s ODI rebuild as he prepares for a World Cup post-mortem with director of cricket Rob Key.
Key has flown out to India for the second time, having been part of the touring party earlier in the tournament, and will begin the process of picking the bones out of a miserable title defence with Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott in the coming days.
A 160-run win over Netherlands in Pune on Wednesday gives them something positive to talk about after five successive defeats and put England back on track for Champions Trophy qualification in 2025. A win in their final game against Pakistan on Saturday would confirm that.
There have been questions over the leadership of the side in India, which Key may wish to examine more closely, but Buttler has made it clear he wants to lead what will be a much-changed squad when it tours the West Indies next month.
Asked if he would be travelling as skipper, Buttler said: “Yeah, I’d like to. I know Rob Key arrives into India today. We can have some good conversations with him and the coach and make a plan for that tour. But, yes, I would like to.
“I’m competitive, I want to win any game I play, whether it’s a game of cards or a game of cricket. So I’m delighted with this win. It’s been a frustrating time, not winning games of cricket or playing as well as we’d like, I’m delighted with this win.”
Match-winner Ben Stokes, whose backs-against-the-wall 108 set England up for victory, will not be going to the Caribbean as he heads for a knee operation at the end of the tournament.
Some, including his friend and former team-mate Steve Harmison, felt Stokes should have been sent home for surgery as soon as the semi-finals were out of reach but his presence carried the side through a familiar batting wobble against the Dutch.
At one stage they had slipped from 1-133 to 6-192, and, without Stokes’ bullish knock, would have fallen far short of their winning mark of 339.
The man himself told the post-match presentation “I don’t leave anyone hanging” and Buttler said an early exit was never on the cards.
“No, we haven’t had any conversations like that. It’s not Ben’s style at all,” he said.
“He’s committed, he wants to play and he wants to put in performances like you saw here. Anytime you need someone to stand up when the team’s under pressure, he’s had a history of always doing that for whoever he’s playing for.
“We’re very lucky to have him in the team and I thought his innings today was exceptional.”
England head to Kolkata on Thursday, where they conclude their disappointing campaign against Pakistan.
Their opponents still have a chance to reach the semi-finals, while Buttler’s men still need to tie down a top-eight finish to book a Champions Trophy place in 2025.
“It’s a huge game for us, vital,” he said.
“We haven’t performed the way we wanted to this whole trip, and we’d like to leave India putting in a proper performance.”
Stokes his struck 108 from 84 balls, grafting hard to begin with then accelerating sharply, to lift England to an imposing 9-339. That was always going to be too many for a Dutch side who lacked the firepower to match Stokes and they wilted for 179 all out.
With two points and a healthy boost to their net run-rate England climbed from 10th to seventh in one jump, overtaking their opponents, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Coming off the back of five demoralising defeats in a row, Stokes produced a show of skill and character that reinforced his status as his team’s “spiritual leader” – a title first uttered by under-pressure head coach Matthew Mott during his spell on the injured list at the start of the tournament.
Chris Woakes provided good support as he made 51 in a seventh-wicket of stand of 129 with Stokes, while Dawid Malan (87) was on course for a ton of his own until a silly run out cost him.
The score was 1-133 when Joe Root attempted, for the second time, one of his trademark reverse scoops over the wicketkeeper. The first one had raced away for four, but this time he got his timing all wrong and was clean bowled through his own legs without even committing a full swing of the bat.
Root has struggled for runs for much of the last month, but falling to a Logan van Beek nutmeg was a new one on his bingo card.
Malan, who had driven expertly and swept two big sixes off Roelof van der Merwe, then fell on his sword in the very next over.
Setting off for a single despite tapping straight to cover, he was sent back by Stokes and caught an inch out of his ground by some smart work in the field.
The recalled Harry Brook (11) then pulled Bas de Leede tamely into the leg-side to fluff his opportunity back in the XI, while out-of-form skipper Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali followed for single figures.
Then Stokes took over. Aryan Dutt’s last over went for 24, de Leede’s final two shipped 34 and Paul van Meekeren delivered a steady stream of wides as the pressure told.
He reached his hundred with a reverse sweep and finally departed in the closing moments looking for one last blow, having hammered six fours and six sixes.