Jos Buttler: Top of group was 'absolutely' the target in England's surging run-chase

Jos Buttler and Phil Salt put on 117 to get the job done themselves Getty Images

After the angst of England's escape from a dicey group-stage scenario, Jos Buttler's men have become the first side through to the T20 World Cup semi-finals, with a brutal ten-wicket dispatching of USA in Barbados. And it was the captain himself who capped the charge with a six-laden 83 not out from 38 balls that could yet secure his team a favourable draw in the knockouts.

England needed to win in 18.4 overs to guarantee that their net run rate vaulted above that of the current Group 2 leaders, South Africa, thereby ensuring their progression no matter what happens in what has now become a de facto quarter-final between South Africa and West Indies in Antigua tonight.

However, Buttler admitted that his team had come out with a more ambitious target in mind - victory in 10.5 overs which would take them above West Indies' current NRR of 1.814, a figure that is likely to come down irrespective of the result against South Africa, given that it is based on their own comprehensive defeat of USA in Bridgetown on Friday.

"Yeah, it was, absolutely," Buttler said at the post-match presentation, when asked if the top of the group was their ultimate aim. With Group 1 blown wide open by Afghanistan's victory over Australia on Saturday, England have given themselves a chance to avoid the in-form India as they seek to defend the title they won in Melbourne in 2022.

"You've got to earn the right to start with, to try and get in, and then once we got through a few overs, we were really trying to target the [short] side with the wind," he added. "We paid the USA a lot of respect but, when we came here, we talked a lot about our intensity. If we could bring that on the field, we thought we'd be too good."

England proved that with an emphatic display with, first ball, and then bat. Adil Rashid was once again their pivotal performer with 2 for 13 in four boundary-less overs, and then it was over to Chris Jordan, whose four wickets in five balls included an innings-sealing hat-trick in front of his friends and family in the island of his birth.

"They were brilliant," Buttler said of his spinners, Rashid and Liam Livingstone, who finished with 1 for 24 in his own four overs, having bowled just three in total in the whole of England's campaign to date.

"Adil has been fantastic all the way through," Buttler added. "And I thought Livie bowled brilliantly as well in tandem. They created a lot of pressure, and created wickets. We don't make it easy for some guys sometimes - one game they don't bowl at all, and then Livie bows four overs today, so credit to him for being ready and producing really good skill."

Jordan has also been an intermittent presence in England's line-up, but was preferred to Mark Wood at a venue where extreme pace had proven expensive in the early matches of the tournament. And it turned out to be an inspired selection, as Jordan backed up a tight first two overs with an inspired third, as he landed his inswinging yorkers time and again to blow away USA's tail.

"I think we've got great options," Buttler said, with Sam Curran's left-arm swing also picking up two wickets to cement his own return to England's first-choice XI.

"We wanted to bring CJ back in to add a little bit of depth to the batting line-up as well, with his allround capabilities, and we know what he's capable of with the ball. He executed fantastically well, and a World Cup hat-trick is a great effort."

Perhaps the most important aspect of England's victory, however, was Buttler's own surging display with the bat, given how important his runs will be to the team's title hopes come the final two matches of the tournament.

After a previous tournament top-score of 42 against Australia, also in Barbados, Buttler powered to his half-century from 32 balls with a lofted six over long-off from Harmeet Singh, then added four more in as many legitimate deliveries, to hunt down England's victory target of 116 in just 58 balls.

"It was really important," he said, of his innings, which finished with a similar flourish to his purple patch of form for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL in April. "I've been feeling good all year, to be honest. You don't always get the results but, now, I feel like I'm hitting the ball well and it's nice to get the confidence.

"It's important to look after my own game as well," he added. "As much as you're trying to be captain and have a broad view, I'm still one of 11. I've got to do my job."