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 just to stop. England’s highest ODI 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. Blink and you would miss Salt on the way to his first one-day hundred in an England shirt or Malan build a carefully constructed ton, or Livingstone – who entered the arena like a coiled spring and wound up with England’s fastest one-day 50, off just 17 balls. But most eye-opening of all was Jos Buttler, whose IPL warmup had brought him 45 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.
England’s previous highest score was 481 for six 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.
Neither Roy, bowled by his cousin Shane Snater for one in the second over of the day, nor Morgan, leg before wicket for a golden duck with the score 407 for four, will take much personal joy from their single-figure 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 flying high over midwicket. It was that kind of day. They had not quite made it to 500, but they’d beaten their own record, the women’s ODI record of 491 for four made by New Zealand against Ireland in 2018, and Surrey’s domestic 50-over record of 496 for four against Gloucestershire in 2007. The shell-shocked Netherlands players applauded England off; they had been well and truly tangoed. Worse, they had won the toss and decided to have a bowl.
Salt had been the ignition, driving and pulling with gumption and reaching 50 with a four over mid-off, his second ODI 50 in just his fourth game. On he flowed, reaching a hundred with a quick single, leaping into the air, before pulling his helmet off and being hugged tightly by Malan. It felt like 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.
So in walked Buttler, with 20 overs left – his very favourite type of arithmetic. After 16 balls, he had reached a watchful 17, while Dawid Malan hovered on the verge with 99.
By the time Buttler had faced another 44 balls, he had overtaken Malan in a passage of play that mostly consisted of fielders watching missiles whistle over their heads into the verdant undergrowth that surrounded the ground. The guesstimate is that Buttler alone lost nine cricket balls, adding up to over €1,000.
Bang! Pow! It was superhero stuff, though he was dropped on 37 at long-off going for his fourth six off one Pieter Seelaar over. The next over, Malan nipped to his first ODI hundred for England – joining Heather Knight and Buttler in the pantheon of England players to have recorded 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 small huddle of white hospitality tents. Another six over the sightscreen and 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 against Pakistan in 2015.
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: not quite.
Set an unenviable task, 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 its 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, long queues for beer, and, 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?