Jos Buttler providing world-class service, says Alex Hales as England take ODI lead over South Africa

England batsman Jos Buttler acknowledges the crowd's applause as he leaves the field after making a century in Bloemfontein (Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP).
England batsman Jos Buttler acknowledges the crowd's applause as he leaves the field after making a century in Bloemfontein (Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP).
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Alex Hales believes Jos Buttler is transforming into “one of the best one-day players in the world” after his century fired England to victory over South Africa in Bloemfontein.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Buttler, promoted to No 4, struck his second successive one-day international hundred, and fourth in total, to help the tourists amass 399-9 following Eoin Morgan’s decision to bat.

The 25-year-old followed his 46-ball ton against Pakistan last year, which broke his own record for the fastest ODI century by an England batsman, with 105 off 76 balls at the Manguang Oval to give England a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

Hales, who also struck 57 from the top of the order, said: “There is not really a lot to say about it.

“In my opinion, he is turning himself into one of the best one-day players in the world. What we have seen (yesterday) was a different level.”

Buttler’s fourth ODI century was, curiously, his slowest – but pretty good going by anyone else’s standards, coming from 73 balls and containing 10 fours and five sixes after England had won the toss.

England captain Morgan added at the post-match presentation: “Jos was phenomenal.

“He has shown a lot of promise in his short career as an England wicketkeeper-batsman and he is certainly someone who can change the game in the future.”

England made good on Morgan’s decision to make first use as Hales, Yorkshire’s Joe Root and Ben Stokes all complemented Butler’s ton with half-centuries to help them record their highest total overseas, which included a national record of 15 maximums.

They fell just short of their all-time best 408-9, against New Zealand at Edgbaston last summer.

“Absolutely, 399 you would take every day of the week,” Morgan added. “It was a monumental effort.

“The tone was really started at the top of the order with the two openers and it continued right down through our innings.”

Quinton de Kock’s career-best 138 not out, his ninth ODI hundred and third in his last four innings, kept South Africa in contention at the Mangaung Oval.

But when a forecast storm wiped out any further play, the hosts’ 250-5 in 33.3 overs was 39 runs too few according to Duckworth-Lewis, and England went 1-0 up with four to play.

Stokes had taken the breath away with a wonderful one-handed catch on the long-on boundary off Moeen Ali (3-43) to restrict the dangerous AB de Villiers to single-figures.

It proved a telling intervention, given the small margins between two powerhouse line-ups on a very good pitch.

“It is a nice way to start the series with a win,” Morgan added.

“Rain interrupted things which was a little bit disappointing because we would have liked to have a full game.

“We have got a really young side and we want to play a strong South African side that they have put out.

“It would have been a fantastic game of cricket, with a good finish, so it is disappointing it ended this way.”