Jos Buttler becomes England's man for any occasion

Jos Buttler plays the ball on the leg side Getty Images

Might this be remembered as the summer in which Jos Buttler came of age as a Test player?

There seems a good chance. Having ended his comeback series - the two-Test affair against Pakistan - as the highest run-scorer on either side, he goes into the final stretch of England's five-Test series against India having scored 98 more runs than his side's next highest scorer. Only Virat Kohli has more among the batsmen of either side.

Buttler's 89 here was his fifth score of 50 or more in 11 innings since returning to the Test side and helped England add what may well prove to be a vital 151 runs for their final three wickets. His average in that period is 51.

For a man who came into the summer as something of a left-field choice from the new national selector, Ed Smith, that is an outstanding return. And, while England may not know who their openers are, who should bat at No. 3, the ideal configuration of their middle-order or quite why Adil Rashid is in the side, Buttler's emergence has been the one tangible sign of progress.

It the manner of the runs as much as the amount of them that has impressed. They have been made in a variety of contexts and styles with Buttler demonstrating a growing ability to adapt his game to the team's requirements. His shot selection, his game management and his maturity as a batsman appear to be improving by the week.

Take the 80 he made against Pakistan at Headingley. On that occasion, having given himself some time to settle, he accelerated sharply when left with the final two tailenders to add 44 for the final two wickets. James Anderson and Stuart Broad contributed just seven between them.

But that was, by and large, the Buttler we have seen in ODI cricket. We know he is capable of big hitting and outrageous strokes. He pretty much brought his limited-overs game to Test cricket.

What he achieved at Trent Bridge represented more obvious progress. There, with England in desperate trouble - he came in with the score 62 for 4 requiring 521 to win - he knuckled down and produced a fairly orthodox Test century. He left more often, demonstrated more patience and showed an ability to build an innings in the manner of traditional first-class batting.

Here, at The Oval, he produced a variation on the theme. Again left with the tail, he defended soundly, left well, rotated the strike cleverly (Anderson faced only five deliveries in their 20-run stand) and still found a way to put away the poor ball. While the innings at Headingley came when England were on top and the innings at Trent Bridge was made in an almost hopeless situation, this one came with the match in the balance and the pressure greater.

Buttler himself is reluctant to talk of "breakthroughs." He has shown promise at this level before and, as he puts it, knows "things can change for the better or worse very quickly." But he did reflect that he had found "a nice balance" in his batting.

"In the past, teams might think I'd be frustrated not to be hitting boundaries," he said. "But at the moment, I'm quite content to just be in the middle, ticking over and picking up ones and twos. I've always tried to be very respectful of the situation and played accordingly."

He has the ability to find another gear, though. And there were a couple of moments towards the end of this innings when those talents were in evidence. Suddenly a first innings that at one stage was struggling to pass 200 was starting to eye 350. It might well prove to the defining passage of the game.

It might be relevant that Buttler has batted at No. 7 in eight of his 11 innings since his recall. By doing so, he is given every chance of batting with the tail and therefore given something of a license to play some shots in the latter stages of the innings. If it comes off: great. And if he goes down swinging, well, there's no blame attached. The attitude may well have helped him unlock his talent and allowed him to settle back into Test cricket with some confidence. His recall - and his positioning in the order - is looking like a bit of master stroke from Smith and co. right now.

"Batting where I do, with the tail, I feel quite comfortable going into this [more aggressive] mode [when necessary]," Buttler said. "It comes quite naturally to me. But you're trying to sum up the situation and play accordingly."

He was helped enormously here by the support of Broad, with whom he added 98 in 20 overs. Broad has had a couple of bigger innings in the last year or so - notably 57 in 47 balls against South Africa at Lord's and 56 in 63 against Australia in Melbourne - but, while those were somewhat frenetic and chancy affairs, here he looked like the accomplished batsmen we once thought he might become. Only once has he batted longer - in terms of balls received - in the last five years and it is hard to think of an innings in that period in which he looked so assured. His fortitude allowed Buttler to build sensibly before pressing the accelerator.

But it is Buttler's progress that is most encouraging. There are plenty of challenges ahead: spin; short bowling and how he reacts to the inevitable times of adversity. But his ability to apply his talent should provide an example to other strokemakers in this team - notably Jonny Bairstow - that they can achieve far more if they can combine their undoubted ability with a little craft and patience. Buttler, right now, is showing them the way.