18 years on and Will Buttleman bats alongside Alastair Cook
Will Buttleman was three years old when Sir Alastair Cook made his List A debut for Essex – 18 years on and he’s opening the Eagles’ batting with him in the Royal London Cup.
Chelmsford native Buttleman, 21, first remembers hearing about Cook, 36, after his double-century for Essex against Australia during the 2005 Ashes summer.
He then watched in awe from the Cloudfm County Ground stands whenever Cook returned from international duty, before rising through the county’s academy to eventually stroll out alongside him.
“I went to most T20s and 50-over games when I was younger and a bit of championship too when I was allowed outside of school,” Buttleman said. “I vividly remember watching him play. That’s why I find opening with him so cool.
“He’s had a lot of opening partners through his career so it is quite surreal and an honour. He is the best in the business and hopefully we can have some big partnerships and I’ll learn a lot from him.
“We have opened together twice now so I am still getting used to it but batting for 20 or 30 overs with him would be a cool experience.”
Having a 22-yard view of one of the sport’s greats is one thing, but having his unmatched wealth of experience and advice on tap is another.
“I probably ask him too many questions!” Buttleman laughed. “I can ask him anything I want. It isn’t just about what he thinks but also things from people he’s been around throughout his career – he can talk about them and how they played.
“The mental side is his strength and that is probably the area I can most improve as well. I maybe lost a bit of concentration in the last game and I need to be hungrier. I need to concentrate on every ball, take them as they come and let it happen.
“I need to listen to ‘Cookie’ when I’m out there and see what he thinks. He is probably the best man ever to listen to about scoring big runs.”
Buttleman has had a breakthrough season at the Eagles, making his Vitality Blast debut, collecting a first professional fifty and now being entrusted at the top of the order in the 50-over competition.
His enterprising 23 against Middlesex, part of a half-century stand with Cook, hinted that he is on the cusp of making significant contributions.
“I feel like 50-overs is my best format. I feel it is a good opportunity to score big runs and to be able to do it in first-team cricket would be ideal,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said. “I’m training harder than ever. I’m doing extra hours and hitting as many balls as I can.
“I really want to cement my place in the team and win games of cricket. I’ve played a handful of games now and had a lot of starts and now I want to make some big scores to help the team.”
It has, however, been a frustrating season so far for Essex. They failed to reach Division One of the LV= Insurance County Championship, thereby ending their defence of that title and the Bob Willis Trophy, while a lack of consistency saw them miss out on the Vitality Blast quarter-finals.
But having won their opening two Royal London Cup fixtures - plus only losing Dan Lawrence and Sam Cook for the competition - the Eagles have high hopes of claiming a fifth trophy in five seasons.
Buttleman said: “We want to keep winning. It is a big opportunity for us to get some silverware.
“We were really disappointed with our T20 competition. We had a lot of inexperience in our side but we felt there were 50-50 games which we should have won.
“We have a nice balance to our 50-over side, and the games so far have shown how much we have matured.”