England urged to demote Jos Buttler after narrow T20 defeat to South Africa

Jos Buttler should return to England’s middle order where he can ‘finish matches off’ after the dramatic Twenty20 defeat to South Africa, according to Ireland hero Niall O’Brien.

England slipped to a one-run defeat in the first T20 international against South Africa on Wednesday, with Buttler opening the batting and scoring 15 from ten balls.

The tourists were cantering to their target of 178 as Jason Roy smashed 70 from 38 deliveries and captain Eoin Morgan made 52, but fell just short after failing to score seven from the final over.

Former Ireland wicketkeeper-batsman O’Brien insists Buttler can be a destructive force at the top of the order but says England need him later in the innings to see the side home.

‘For me, I don’t think Buttler needs to open the batting,’ O’Brien told Sky Sports. ‘Batting in the middle order at four or five, he can see the game home.

‘I don’t think he’s that much better than say [Jonny] Bairstow as an opener – he will be a little bit more destructive but not that much and Bairstow can do that job.

‘Moving down allows Buttler to come in later and finish the match off. Having Buttler and [Ben] Stokes in the middle order with that experience is invaluable.

‘If Buttler comes out with you needing eight or nine an over he can kill a game in two or three overs.’

O’Brien also expressed his surprise that England opted to leave in-form batsman Dawid Malan out of their side for the T20 opener in East London.

Malan averages close to 60 in Twenty20 internationals, having scored one century and five fifties in his nine innings for England in the shortest format.

‘I can’t believe he is not playing,’ O’Brien said. ‘Okay, nine games is not a huge sample size but those numbers suggest you have to play.

‘For him him not to play is strange – it doesn’t make sense. I don’t think he can bat six – I would suggest top three is going to be where he is most effective.

‘That means, for me, Buttler or Bairstow have to go down to five or six and I would suggest Buttler is better there to see the game over the line.

‘[Joe] Denly is a good cricketer – he has done well in Test cricket and did well in the ODI series. But him coming in at five or six is not going to send shivers down a bowler’s spine.’

Following their narrow defeat on Wednesday, England skipper Morgan said: ‘We have to improve how we played the end of the chase.

‘We’ll talk about that over the next 24 hours and hopefully get an answer and a clear mindset going into Durban.’

England will look to level the three-match series on Friday in Durban.

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