It was as if a popcorn machine had exploded: hot, sweet, buttery kernels flying this way and that to the delight of onlookers, while the desperate owners pressed buttons at random, willing it to stop. England’s highest one-day international total – a world record score of 498 for four – annihilated a wilting Netherlands attack as Jos Buttler, Phil Salt, Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone put the God Damn into Amsterdam.
In an innings so stuffed full of superlatives it was hard to know when best to time a quick scratch of the ankle, let alone shimmy off to buy a drink, England walloped 26 sixes – another record – in a three-and-a-bit -hour blitz with short boundaries. Blink and you would miss Salt on the way to his first hundred in an England shirt or Malan building a carefully constructed ton, or Livingstone, who entered the arena like a coiled spring and wound up with England’s fastest one-day fifty, off 17 balls .
But most eye-opening of all was Buttler, whose IPL warm-up had brought him 46 sixes as well as both the most valuable player and leading run-scorer awards. It was safe to say he had his eye in at Amstelveen.
“Any time you manage to play like that and play like that as a team is a great day out,” Buttler said, as softly spoken as ever. “This is the most fun environment I’ve ever played in. It’s been great to be back, on a normal tour and not worry about bubbles.”
England’s previous highest score was 481 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 2018, when Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow biffed hundreds, with Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan chipping in generously. Hales and Bairstow were not in contention for this tour, for different reasons, and neither Jason Roy, bowled by his cousin Shane Snater for one in the second over of the day, nor Morgan, lbw for a golden duck with the score 407 for four , will take much personal joy from their scorecard entries.
Buttler took England past the record with a whipping chip down the ground for six in the last over of the innings, before Livingstone finished things off with a four and six over midwicket. It was that kind of day. They had not quite made it to 500 but they had beaten their own record, the women’s highest ODI record of 491 and Surrey’s domestic 50-over record of 496. The shell-shocked Netherlands players applauded England off; they had been well and truly tangoed. Worse, they had won the toss and decided to bowl.
Salt had been the ignition, punching down the ground and pulling with gumption and reaching 50 with a four over mid-off, his second ODI fifty in only his fourth game. On he flowed, reaching his century with a quick single, leaping into the air, before pulling his helmet off and hugging Malan tightly. It felt as if every ball was being directed exactly as planned but three overs later he was out, trying to cut but managing only to top-edge Logan van Beek.
Out came Buttler, with 20 overs left – his very favorite type of arithmetic. After 16 balls he had reached a watchful 17 while Malan hovered on the brink with 99. By the time Buttler had faced another 44 balls, he had overtaken Malan – 114 to 113 – in a passage of play which mostly consisted of fielders watching missiles whistle over their heads into the verdant undergrowth that surrounded the ground. The guestimate is that Buttler alone lost nine cricket balls, adding up to more than €1,000.
It was superhero stuff, though he was dropped on 37 at long-off going for his fourth six off one Pieter Seelar over. The next over Malan nipped to his first ODI hundred for England – joining Heather Knight and Buttler himself in the pantheon of England players with centuries in all three formats.
By now Buttler was seeing the ball like a huge Edam. Two scoops off successive deliveries from Bas de Leede, six over the huddle of white hospitality tents. Another six into the trees. His hundred arrived off 47 balls, making it the second fastest ODI century by an Englishman. The fastest? Forty-six balls by Buttler himself.
As Livingstone then arrived and belted the first full over he faced for four sixes and two fours, a woman in a flowing orange kaftan and rolling a generously stuffed cigarette asked: “Are they as good at bowling as they are at batting?” The answer was nearly but not quite.
Set an unenviable task, the Netherlands reached 50 in 58 balls but already that put them behind the required run rate: 7.98 at the start of the innings but ready to spring out of the blocks. Reece Topley dismissed the sparky Max O’Dowd, after reviewing; Sam Curran, out for months with a stress fracture, was back with nine overs of left-arm skidders and two wickets while Moeen Ali picked up three for 57.
By now some of the more than 6,000 people who had crowded into the ground’s four temporary stands had retreated into the shade. Others joined the long beer queues while, in places, little games of cricket broke out. The sun-resistant sang along to the DJ’s crowd-pleasers.
It was England’s first ODI for 11 months. What can they do when they have warmed up properly?