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Cricket: Buttleman keeping bag ready for Essex emergencies

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 June 2019

Will Buttleman of Essex appeals for the wicket of Adam Lyth during Yorkshire CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at Emerald Headingley Cricket Ground on 3rd June 2019

Will Buttleman of Essex appeals for the wicket of Adam Lyth during Yorkshire CCC vs Essex CCC, Specsavers County Championship Division 1 Cricket at Emerald Headingley Cricket Ground on 3rd June 2019

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In light of an Essex wicketkeeping injury crisis bordering on an epidemic, Will Buttleman has learnt to keep his cricket bag packed and ready. And to always keep his mobile phone switched on.

Buttleman, one of five keepers used in Essex's five Specsavers County Championship matches this season, has twice had to scramble when his phone has rung unexpectedly.

On both occasions the opposition were Hampshire; by coincidence Hampshire are the visitors to Chelmsford for a four-day game, starting tomorrow (11am), and 19-year-old Buttleman is on red alert in case of emergency.

Adam Wheater, whose broken thumb on the opening day two and a half months ago prefaced the wicketkeeping drama, is expected to reclaim the gloves after a 28-over run-out behind the stumps for the Second XI in the rain-shortened game against Glamorgan at Neath during the week.

"I kind of understand that I can be needed at any time," Buttleman says. "I've learnt that, even if I'm not playing, to have my stuff ready and make sure my phone is on loud so if they call me I can get down there straight away."

The phone rang for the first time late last August when Wheater damaged his shoulder at the Cloudfm County Ground.

"That was a strange situation," says Buttleman. "I'd been on the ground but had gone into town for some food when I got a call from Barry Hyam [the second-team coach] saying that I had to come back and keep.

"I remember I was having a Nando's with my Academy team-mate Ben Allison at the time. I had to run back to the ground, put on Wheater's stuff and get myself out on to the pitch.

"That was the most unexpected, especially because I thought they'd call [Michael] Pepper. But he lives in Cambridge, so I had to keep for a session while he was driving to the ground."

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That brief introduction to first-class cricket came towards the end of a season in which he captained Essex Under-18s to white-ball success, progressed to the Second XI and led Felsted School with some domineering all-round performances.

Ironically, he didn't keep wicket at school - current Kent professional Jordan Cox had the job - but Buttleman took 25 wickets with his off-spin in addition to 817 runs at 68.08 with the bat.

The second call to arms for Essex came in this season's fixture at Southampton when Buttleman had to rush down and relieve Dan Lawrence, who was standing in as interregnum following Wheater's latest mishap.

"I was at home in Brentwood," Buttleman recalls. "Funnily enough, that morning I'd said, 'Oh, Essex are playing Hampshire. I wonder....'."

Buttleman's catch in that match goes into the record books under the cloak of anonymity as 'caught sub'. But he finally made it on to the scorecard in his own right in Essex's most recent Championship match against Yorkshire.

Apart from a 37-ball nought at a time when crease occupation was key, Buttleman took three catches on his first-class debut and kept so tidily that he conceded just one bye in 163 and a half overs.

Even then, his inclusion was only as a last-minute replacement after Pepper was ruled out with a broken finger, and loaned-in Middlesex keeper Robbie White suffered an ankle injury during training the day before the game.

"Yes, you could say it's been a crisis," Buttleman admits. "But it's given other people a go as well. Obviously the injury to Adam at the start of the season wasn't good, but it's given Michael and myself some very important experience.

"You never know with wicketkeeping because if you get hit in the right spot - or rather, the wrong spot - it can break a finger straight away and you can be out for two months. That's the problem. I guess we've been really unlucky this season.

"I've got a few bent fingers, but I just get on with it. They're not as bad as any of the injuries our keepers have had over the past couple of months. Touch wood, I don't get anything like that."

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